In recognition of 20 years of behavioral health leadership and the partnership demonstrated by the Delaware County HealthChoices program, more than 280 individuals joined County Council, the County Department of Human Services and Magellan Behavioral Health of Pennsylvania for an awards program and anniversary celebration last Wednesday in Drexel Hill.
Along with providing mental health inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services, which are offered 24-hours, seven days-a-week through crisis services, the HealthChoices program provides substance abuse treatment, detoxification, and rehabilitation services for residents struggling with addiction.
“Magellan does their work outside the box,” said Jonna L. DiStefano, administrator, Office of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities. “They don’t look at the person in terms of what their disability is. They look at them as a person and how their life can be fully maximized. Having that approach and fostering that approach with all of the providers has made it such a tremendous initiative.”
In 2016, more than $130 million in behavioral health services were provided to residents through the HealthChoices Program.
In 1997, in response to state-wide adoption of a managed care model of service, Delaware County established a unique, publicly funded partnership with Magellan to operate the behavioral health managed care HealthChoices Program with a vision of increasing access to services, improving quality of care, and containing costs for the county.
“Since its inception, the Delaware County HealthChoices program has evolved in response to the needs and priorities of our residents,” said Councilman Dave White, County Council’s liaison to the Department of Human Services that oversees mental health programs. “This has included the expansion of services for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug and/alcohol addiction which helps us in our fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic. Through the expansion of treatment plans, our residents have a better chance of overcoming addiction, and as a result, we are hearing more and more stories of recovery.”
According to a recent article in the New York Times, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in Americans under age 50. Jim Leonard, vice president and general manager of Magellan, said drug addiction is something they deal with every day.
“We are really looking at new evidence-based research programs that we know work. We are looking at medication-assisted treatment, public education prevention, and investing in research to come up with solutions,” said Leonard.
Added DiStefano: “We work really hard around stigma. We used to believe it was more prevalent around the drug and alcohol side. We are coming to see it is more as prevalent on the mental health side. We need to talk about mental illness and substance abuse disorders like we do physical health issues and we are trying to foster that in the community.”
In addition to recognizing 20 years of partnership, the event recognized individuals who have demonstrated dedication, leadership and commitment to behavioral health services.
“We are proud of developing and maintaining the partnership we have with the county. Through that, we are able to make an impact on an individual level offering support to the residents of Delaware County to put them on a successful path,” said Leonard.
Leonard credited the relationships, listening to community needs, and their employees for their success.
Keynote speaker Tonier Cain shared a message of hope through her powerful story of addiction, recovery and redemption.