Project ECHO expands access to mental health care

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The Robert Wood Johnson and GE foundations and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center have announced a new national institute focused on replicating Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) and opened a mental health clinic designed to serve as a model for expanding access to mental health care in the United States.

Launched in 2003 to boost access to hepatitis C treatment, Project ECHO now includes many other common, chronic, and complex diseases. It uses a secure Internet-based audio-visual network to connect primary care providers with medical specialists at the center to improve access to care for patients and trains doctors, nurses, physician's assistants, and other clinicians in rural and underserved areas to work together to manage patients, expanding the health system's capacity to deliver high-quality chronic health care to those most in need.

The ECHO Institute aims to meet the growing demand to replicate the ECHO model, ensure the model's integrity, and connect ECHO programs nationally and globally so they can mine data for disease patterns and establish best practices. To that end, the institute will develop the infrastructure and tools to help disseminate the ECHO model.

Funding from the GE Foundation will be used to prototype and evaluate a new model of care through which Project ECHO will train and mentor a team of primary care clinicians to provide mental health treatment at community health centers in rural and underserved areas of New Mexico. If the model proves to be successful, it will be replicated at other Project ECHO sites.

"Through our work to expand access to primary care, we fully understand the growing need to provide mental health treatment in community health centers," said GE Foundation president and board chair Bob Corcoran. "This approach with Project ECHO will bring mental health care to patients in their home communities with local clinicians. We think this will not only improve access to mental health care, but ultimately improve overall well-being and quality of life for these patients and their families."

“Project ECFO Launches National Institute to Spread Transformative Care Model.” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Press Release 6/14/13.

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