HSL Receives $525,000 Grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass Foundation

Three-year grant will expand mental health screening to vulnerable home care patients

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BOSTON — Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL), the largest provider of senior health care and communities in New England and an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, has received a $525,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. The three-year grant will support the expansion of HSL’s “Making Real Progress in Emotional Health” (MARPEH) program to patients enrolled in HSL Home Care. The goal of MARPEH is to integrate behavioral health treatment with primary care and other health services to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms in seniors and improve overall health.

“Seniors who are enrolled in home care, particularly low-income seniors, are especially vulnerable to depression,” said Mary Moscato, President of Hebrew SeniorLife Health Care Services and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. “This grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation will allow us to improve seniors’ access to mental health screening and treatment, leading to improved physical and emotional health.”

At least 20 percent of older adults in primary care in the United States are estimated to suffer from major depression—yet more than 90 percent of these patients are not receiving adequate clinical treatment. Most seniors in home care have recently been discharged from the hospital and may be suffering from isolation, pain, and increased frailty. Many are adjusting to a life with new physical challenges. These stressors can increase their risk for depression, while limiting their ability to seek and receive mental health treatment.

“The Foundation is investing in behavioral health integration programs that serve low-income and vulnerable patients across the entire life span, and the needs of seniors are often forgotten,” said Audrey Shelto, President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “MARPEH is strong example of how this population is having their behavioral and medical health needs successfully met.”

The MARPEH program is led by Dr. Eran Metzger, HSL Director of Psychiatry and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Metzger will oversee the training of HSL Home Care staff to screen patients for depression and other mental health issues. Patients who screen positive for mild to moderate depression will receive basic problem-solving therapy from trained home care staff. Those with more advanced mental illness will be referred for more intensive treatment with HSL advance practice clinicians. Dr. Metzger and home care staff will collaborate with each patient’s primary care provider to ensure continuity and integration of medical and psychiatric care.

“Primary care physicians juggle multiple demands, particularly when it comes to treating seniors,” said Dr. Metzger. “By partnering with home care patients and primary care practices, we can reduce or eliminate barriers to accessing care for depression and other mental health issues. This will also improve patients’ physical health, since we know that poor mental health can worsen physical health. Hopefully, this integrated care program will serve as a replicable model for senior care organizations locally and nationally.”

MARPEH was launched by HSL in 2013 and is currently reaching more than 1,000 residents at all three of HSL’s supportive housing communities for low-income seniors. This represents the first time that MARPEH will enroll seniors living independently in the community.

HSL Home Care serves approximately 2,000 seniors each day in Greater Boston. The average age is 85 years old, and one in five patients is Russian-speaking. In 2015, HSL acquired Jewish Family & Children’s Services Medicare-certified home health and home care services, whose patients were primarily low-income and dual eligible, thereby expanding HSL’s impact on a highly vulnerable population.

The grant is part of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation’s Fostering Effective Integration of Behavioral Health and Primary Care. Through the grant program, the Foundation is evaluating and assessing experienced integrated care models that have the greatest likelihood of demonstrating the impact of integration on increased access, improved outcomes, and greater patient engagement and satisfaction.

About Hebrew SeniorLife
Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is a national senior services leader uniquely dedicated to rethinking, researching and redefining the possibilities of aging. Based in Boston, the non-profit, non-sectarian organization has provided communities and health care for seniors, research into aging, and education for geriatric care providers since 1903. For more information about Hebrew SeniorLife, visit https://www.hebrewseniorlife.org, follow us on Twitter @H_SeniorLife, like us on Facebook, or read our blog.