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Welcome to Charlotte!

Posted By Cathy Hudgins, Eric Christian, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This post is by the 2016 CFHA Conference Co-Chairs. 


Come See for Yourself!

A psychiatrist, a primary care doc, and a therapist walk into a bar…So, you think I am joking, right? Actually, this type of meet-up is not uncommon at CFHAs annual conference. Come to Charlotte, NC in October and see for yourself!


One thing was clear during the initial planning meeting for this year’s CFHA conference – we wanted the theme to be inclusive. It needed to welcome all types of providers, practices, policy makers, and others who are working together to make integrated care (IC) a standard of care. We may come from different states, backgrounds, perspectives, and job roles, but we are united and working toward the same goals. I can think of no other organization like it for this reason.

There are always sessions that challenge the way I think about some aspect of IC (over 80 to choose from!). Every year I walk away with new tools and implementation strategies that put a new spin on the foundations built by many of our CFHA members. This year you will have the opportunity to dive deep into the IC models or learn more about how to negotiate health information technology during the precons. You can choose from 2 Master Lectures: The Intersection Between Physical and Mental Health Disorders in Older Adults or the Ethical Challenges of Working with Diverse Couples in Primary Care.


We are also excited to offer timely plenaries on the healthcare needs of LGBTQ and Ally community, community-based solutions to the opioid epidemic, and provider strategies to reduce suicides. All of these special events punctuate 6 specialized tracks to choose from – topics that span from finance and cost control, training and research, patient and family-centered approaches, team-based clinical skills and innovations, workforce and inter-professional education, and population and public health.


If all of that is enough, you also have the opportunity to swap lessons learned and best practices with experts from across the nation -- the "rock stars” who share their expertise via publications, the listserv, monthly webinars, and the special interest group teleconferences throughout the year. Where else can you meet the people who authored your favorite IC books, articles, and videos? These experts do not just present; they sit beside you during the sessions and plenaries because they are there to learn about the newest advances and successes from their peers and emerging IC talent.


To offer a broader view of the IC work in NC, we will have the first CFHA state showcase. Working in North Carolina has opened my mind to the creativity and effort that it takes to customize models that the IC pioneers and early adopters developed, researched, and refined over the last 3 decades. NC has had a long history of public and philanthropic funding devoted to developing IC in NC.


We will have the first CFHA state showcase 


Charitable organizations, such as the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the Cone Health Foundation, and the Duke Endowment, continue to support providers and organizations who are determined to keep their patients from falling through the cracks of a fractured system. I encourage you to stop by the NC Showcase to meet representatives of some of these projects and programs.

You will also meet members and staff of our NC Integrated Care Steering Committee, State Departments, and countless IC task forces and workgroups. They will gladly share first-hand stories about the energy and movement going on behind the scenes – a story is full of herculean effort, deep commitment, and dogged tenacity. Many hard-won victories and lessons learned are shared at CFHA by people across the nation – it is truly an affirming, unifying event.

I wouldn’t have the job that I have today at the Center of Excellence for Integrated Care if I had not gone to a CFHA conference several years ago. There have been so many CFHA members who have influenced my work and career since then -- people who I am honored to call friends and colleagues; people who I would have never met had I not discovered this organization.


When I tell people that going to CFHA is better than any holiday for me (which I really mean!), it is because I never know what magic will result each year. Now it is my turn to give back as co-chair – and I can’t wait to see all of the wonderful gifts that come from these 3+ exciting days of all things IC. I hope you will join us in Charlotte to experience the magic as we celebrate the many faces and places of Integrated Care!

Cathy Hudgins, PhD, LMFT, is the Director of the Center of Excellence for Integrated Care under the North Carolina Foundation for Advanced Health Programs.  She is an active member of the Collaborative Family Health Association and AAMFT and presents locally and nationally on Integrated Care. 


Paths to Integration and CFHA 2016

It’s always intriguing to hear personal accounts about how people became interested in their current profession and what drives them to continue pushing the limits within their field. Some of us who were trained in and began our careers in more traditional behavioral health environments had an epiphany somewhere along the way when presented with a new and exciting team-based integrated care (IC) delivery format, and decided to pursue this new path.

This epiphany happened for me in the ninth year of my career as a behaviorist. My work to this point was fulfilling and I was able to advance into exciting positions within clinical leadership. In 2004 North Carolina made sweeping changes in the care delivery system away from state run community treatment to a privatized system, and after a few years, the changeable environment became very complicated for many to work within.


While managing an outpatient behavioral health unit I began to notice how our nursing staff focused on a broader comprehensive profile of the patient’s health beyond the presenting issue. My curiosity grew deeper following a few encounters where physical illness was exacerbating the patient’s behavioral health presentation, a factor which began to broaden my perspective of which professionals should be a critical part of the patient’s care team. How had I missed these important variables before?


When presented with a unique opportunity to bring my behavioral skills to medical settings, while simultaneously learning more about treating the whole person in one setting, I chose this new path. IC provided me with an exciting new area of learning and the opportunity to meet others who were inspired by the creativity and targeted services that integrated settings offer to patients. Shortly afterwards the path led to learning about the esteemed CFHA while assisting with the conference in Asheville, NC in 2007.

Integrated Care provides enhanced service delivery for patients, while at the same time does its part to strengthen the broader continuum of services needed to manage the range of healthcare needs in any one community. Along this continuum of services, in North Carolina we are beginning to see expanding interest beyond traditional IC to bi-directional integration, the use of peer support and community health workers to engage patients, cross-training in behavioral health clinics on common chronic illnesses such as diabetes, and greater strides in the use data for decision-making and collaboration with each other across town.


In North Carolina we see expanding interest beyond traditional IC to bi-directional integration


As you well know, our current healthcare environment is in great flux as we move away from fee-for-service models towards accountable care. Many states, including NC, are somewhere in the middle of this transition, but one thing is clear, integration will continue to propagate and is gaining tremendous momentum as new clinicians discover it every day. While providing technical assistance to IC sites I often meet clinicians who are just learning about integration and are as excited as I am to envision the possibilities it can provide. Do you remember when this happened for you?


This year’s conference theme, Celebrating the Many Faces and Places of Integration, celebrates the shift many have made towards IC and will inevitably increase the size and breadth of the CFHA family. CFHA veterans are in a unique position to welcome new conference attendees by sharing CFHA’s collegial environment which is focused on supporting best practice approaches to integrated treatment.


As Co-Chair for our conference this year, I’m excited to hear the stories of newcomers and how their new path of exploration is inspiring them to stretch the constructs of care provision while ultimately contributing to our collective movement to provide whole person care. See you when our IC paths cross in Charlotte!

Eric Christian, MAEd, LPC, NCC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Nationally Certified Counselor who has been working in the field since 1998. He works as the Director of Behavioral Health Integration for Community Care of Western North Carolina, where he provides technical assistance and consultation to providers interested in integration. 

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CFHA is a member-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to making integrated behavioral and physical health the standard of care nationally. CFHA achieves this by organizing the integrated care community, providing expert technical assistance and producing educational content.