Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation grant to provide
in‐house screening and counseling services
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – To help address the growing mental health crisis among previously homeless people living with HIV in the St. Louis area, DOORWAYS was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation. The funds will assist in offering onsite behavioral health services for individuals and families living below the Federal Poverty Level, affected by HIV, and now housed by DOORWAYS—a population the agency has served since 1988.
Studies have shown individuals who live at the intersection of poverty, homelessness, and HIV are experiencing increased depth and breadth of mental health challenges. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, mental health issues may be both a cause and an effect of these life circumstances. While homelessness can lead to mental health problems, mental health problems can lead to homelessness. Similarly, mental illness or the struggle for resources can lead to risky behaviors that increase the potential for exposure to HIV according to HIV.gov.
“Due to the critically intertwined relationship between HIV, mental illness, and homelessness, the path to stability must address all three challenges simultaneously,” said Pat Plumley, chief program officer at DOORWAYS. “While referrals to counselors have always been an important aspect of our coordinated care plan, client ability to follow through was overwhelmed by navigational barriers. It is time for a strategic model of care with onsite access.”
The new DOORWAYS behavioral health program will be staffed by two licensed counselors who will train front‐line coordinators on a five‐point mental health screening tool. At least 200 people will be screened each year. Based on projections, DOORWAYS expect approximately 140 people to show scores indicating instability. The coordinators will refer those individuals to the counselors for further assessment, which will be conducted on DOORWAYS properties and will end the need for the clients to travel to an outside agency or mental health contractor. DOORWAYS expects 70 people to receive one‐on‐one counseling and/or group therapy through the new behavioral health program.
“We are extremely grateful for this grant from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation’s Healthier Generations program to support the launch of our onsite behavioral health program,” said Opal M. Jones, president & CEO of DOORWAYS. “We are now able to seamlessly deliver housing and mental health/substance use counseling onsite. This is another pathway to help our clients achieve the stabilization needed to impact their individual lives and the community as a whole.”
According to the inaugural State of the Nation’s Mental Health report, commissioned by Anthem, Inc., parent company of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Missouri, even with the increased negative mental health impact of the pandemic and other stressors on people living in America, there wasn’t a corresponding increase in mental health diagnoses or people seeking mental health treatment. This shows individuals in need of mental health services are not receiving the care they need and highlights the importance of identifying and delivering mental health services where needed most.
Decreasing disparities in mental health care can produce significant outcomes: a reduction in homelessness recidivism and improved management of an HIV treatment regimen that may lead to undetectable status and an end to new cases of HIV in the community.
“Today, HIV is treatable. As DOORWAYS clients stabilize both mentally and physically, they are better able to manage their HIV medication regimens, which leads to reductions in viral load counts. At this point, clients not only feel better but, when they achieve undetectable status, they also render the virus untransmittable, reducing new cases of HIV,” said Jay Moore, M.D., chief clinical officer, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and immediate past president of the DOORWAYS board of directors. “Addressing the complex needs of this vulnerable population will help make a positive impact in three key public health areas that will help improve the overall health of the community.”