Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Integrated Approach to Healthcare: Patrick Barrie Takes the Helm at Washtenaw Community Health Organization

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Integrated Approach to Healthcare: Patrick Barrie Takes the Helm at Washtenaw Community Health Organization

Article excerpt

When the Washtenaw Community Health Organization(WCHO) in Ypsilanti, Mich., appointed Patrick Barrie as its new executive director in November of last year, they gained a leader with more than 30 years of experience and the financial know-how that can help see them through the economic turmoil in the Wolverine State.

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The WCHO was created in 2000 by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and the Regents of the University of Michigan to provide integrated care to Medicaid and indigent consumers with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse problems.

Barrie, who has a masters in psychology from Duquesne University, as well as a master's in history from Michigan State University, began his career in Pittsburgh, but returned to his home state of Michigan to work for a series of community mental health centers (in both clinical and clinical-supervisory capacities) before going to work for the state in 1995. He served for six years as the director of the mental health and substance abuse services administration with the Michigan Department of Community Health, acting simultaneously as the state Medicaid director and mental health/substance abuse director, before he went to work with the WCHO in 2008 as a deputy administrator.

"When I came to the WCHO, I was first focused on trying to develop some state interest in funding disease management for consumers with serious mental illness who either had significant medical co-morbidities or precursor conditions," Barrie says.

He has served as interim executive director since February 2009, replacing retiring director Kathleen Reynolds, who had led the organization since its inception.

Establishing medical homes

The WCHO's top priority is developing an integrated healthcare infrastructure for its consumer community. It's well known that patients with mental health and substance abuse issues face much higher risks from otherwise preventable or treatable diseases. The WCHO hopes to improve outcomes by partnering with primary care providers and non-profit community clinics, and creating "medical homes" where these patients can receive primary and behavioral healthcare services at one site.

"We've started to get more focused on doing a better job of identifying people with multiple morbidities and looking at their pattern of healthcare use, as well as our own tracking of their healthcare status and needs," Barrie says. …

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