GRAND RAPIDS — A new partnership between Corewell Health and Pine Rest Christian Mental Services aims to tighten ties between the two organizations to improve access to care in West Michigan.
Executives from the largest in-state health system and Michigan’s largest behavioral health care provider said today they signed an agreement to create the Collaborative for Behavioral Health that will look for additional ways to partner on mental health care.
Through the collaborative, the two companies plan to “intentionally and regularly identify behavioral health issues affecting the community, and to solve them through collaborative projects,” according to a joint announcement on the venture.
The collaborative will focus on areas that include reducing wait times to see a mental health care provider, decreasing the cost and increasing the quality of care, and addressing barriers to access, particularly for pediatric behavioral health services and in underserved markets.
“We believe that by two institutions working together, we can solve more problems faster than if we’re working independently,” Pine Rest President and CEO Dr. Mark Eastburg said. “We’re both part of the same community.”
The Collaborative for Behavioral Health builds on a partnership that Corewell Health and Pine Rest formed in mid-2022 to develop a $62 million, 88-bed pediatric center. Targeted to start construction in 2024 at Pine Rest’s 68th Street campus in Cutlerville, the new facility will include psychiatric urgent care, a crisis stabilization unit and specialty outpatient clinics to prevent mental health crises for conditions such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
Pine Rest and Corewell also worked together extensively during the pandemic in the last three years to share resources, expertise and staff as incidence rates and demand for mental health care spiked. By formalizing ties, the two organizations want to take that collaboration “to a higher level,” Eastburg said.
“We came through for each other. That was a good experience, and the experience we’ve had working together to develop the Pediatric Behavioral Health Center of Excellence has been great and has so much promise for the community. This collaborative basically says, ‘OK, what’s next? Where do we go next? What big problems do we want to solve together?’” he said. “We think there are some really great opportunities to solve problems, and part of the process of a collaborative is just sitting down and answering the question: What is next?”
The pair of organizations were already talking about how they could ramp up collaboration when they agreed to partner on the Pine Rest Pediatric Center of Excellence, said Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, the president of Corewell Health in West Michigan.
The pediatric center project “kind of supercharged” the drive for great collaboration at a time when there’s a “huge access problem” and the demand for mental health care exceeds the capacity, Elmouchi said.
“There’s a behavioral health crisis in the country and locally. No one organization can solve it, and we looked at the landscape in West Michigan and said, ‘Who would be the best partner to help us make things better?’ There’s no doubt it’s Pine Rest. They have the expertise. We’ve collaborated with them already, and they’ve proven to be very good partners over the years,” he said. “We know that we probably can never have enough psychologists or therapists in West Michigan to meet the demand, so we can look at ways — whether it’s virtual, whether it’s totally innovative ways we haven’t thought of before — (where) we put our heads together to see if we can do that differently.”
Forming the Collaborative for Behavioral Health and launching with a West Michigan focus provides a formal structure for collaboration between Corewell and Pine Rest. The collaborative better enables the two organizations to set goals jointly, formulate strategic plans and establish metrics for measuring progress, said Elmouchi, noting the structure also creates accountability.
“It will allow more to be done in a shorter period of time,” he said.
In joining Corewell to create the Collaborative for Behavioral Health, Pine Rest remains committed to collaborate with other health systems in the market, most notably Trinity Healthy and University of Michigan Health-West, Eastburg said.
The arrangement with Corewell does not exclude Pine Rest from working with others, he said.
“We work together with all the health care organizations in town,” Eastburg said.