The Brien Center Winter 2018 Newsletter

Excellence in Program Leadership: Meri-Ellen Morgans

We are proud to announce that Meri-Ellen Morgans was honored by the Association for Behavioral Healthcare (ABH) with the prestigious Excellence in Program Leadership Award. ABH awards the honor to a member of the behavioral health community in Massachusetts who exemplifies outstanding leadership qualities, and demonstrates evidence of a personal commitment to quality and innovation in their work performance.

As Program Director, Meri-Ellen oversees a large outreach team and two twenty-four hour residential programs for Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS). Over her 35 years with the agency, she has seen many iterations of the model of care and treatment and she has remained committed to the approach of minimizing barriers and maximizing people’s strengths. She was instrumental in developing the Brien Center?s response to the DMH Community Based Flexible Supports RFR in 2009. Through her experience and understanding of individuals needs, Meri-Ellen advocated for the peer support role, employment specialists and assisted in the development of a model that moved from custodial care to a model of recovery and personal empowerment.

In addition, Meri-Ellen has become a lead trainer in motivational interviewing and has mentored dozens of students and interns, working side by side with them to model the behaviors of a skilled social worker.

Meri-Ellen has also done exceptional work to support individuals in the end stages of life, a role many people find extremely challenging. Her part-time work at HospiceCare of the Berkshires has been invaluable in helping individuals make necessary but difficult decisions. All of these qualities exemplify the Meri-Ellen everyone knows and respects. She genuinely cares for her staff, her peers and most importantly, those individuals she serves. If you see Meri-Ellen please congratulate her on this well-deserved honor!

Keeenan House for Women Opens

On November 20, 2017, Keenan House for Women officially opened its doors. The program, which is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Health/Bureau of Substance and Addiction Services, provides residential recovery services for women in early recovery from addiction. The 17 bed program can also accommodate pregnant and postpartum women and their infants.

The program opening was the culmination of months of effort. The house was completely renovated by Berkshire Health Systems, which owns the property, and is wheelchair accessible. Brien Center staff spent over eight months preparing for the program, hiring and training staff, developing evidence-based, trauma-informed programming, and creating a warm, welcoming environment. Residents participate in daily clinical services, such as group treatment and case management. They are also encouraged to create support networks and increase their independence by pursuing educational and vocational goals.

Keenan House for Women welcomed the community to see the home and celebrate its opening on January 29, 2018 with an Open House, attended by over 40 people and covered by the local press. Speakers and members of the Berkshire legislative delegation remarked on the incredible work happening at the home, during a time when the opioid epidemic is impacting much of the Commonwealth. “It’s a great day for the Berkshires,” remarked state Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, D-Lenox, “but we can’t stop here.”

If you or someone you know are interested in becoming a resident of Keenan House for Women, please call 413-997-0067 for an intake interview.

Behavioral Health Community  Partners Program Helping to Improve Health Care in Berkshire County

In 2017, as part of the MassHealth Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program implementation, the Baker Administration announced the selection of organizations to become designated Community Partners. The Brien Center was one of 18 organizations designated as a Behavioral Health Community Partner to provide services to individuals with a history of complex mental health, medical and/or addiction challenges.

Effective June 1, 2018 the new Brien Center Behavioral Health Community Partners Program will partner with several ACOs, including Berkshire Fallon Health Collaborative which includes Berkshire Health Systems (BHS), Community Health Programs (CHP), and Fallon Health. The aim of these partnerships is to integrate and improve the health outcomes of over 1,000 MassHealth members in Berkshire County with complex long term behavioral health and medical needs. We will:

  • provide outreach and active engagement with members in community settings (i.e. home, primary care physician office, other locations);
  • establish a care team comprised of Masters-level clinicians, nurses, recovery coaches and community health workers to support members utilizing evidenced based interventions;
  • establish a person-centered treatment plan across behavioral health, physical health, LTSS, and social needs to help maintain the member successfully in the community;
  • coordinate services across the continuum of care and assist with transitions of care as needed; – provide health and wellness coaching; and – provide navigation assistance with needed medical, financial and social services.

The Brien Center is currently collaborating with ACOs in weekly meetings to establish workflows around the referral and engagement process, care plans and ongoing care coordination. Additionally we are starting to hire key staff to help prepare for our program start this summer. The Behavioral Health Community Partners program is anticipated to be funded for 5 years. More updates to follow this year!

News from Child Adolescent Division

Mass Health, Massachusetts Medicaid program, will be undergoing significant changes over the next 5 years in order to improve population health and care coordination through payment reform and value-based models. Goals include integration of physical and behavioral health care and enhanced staffing through training. . The Brien Center’s Community Service Agency (CSA) is the center of our Children?s Behavioral Health Initiative planning and treatment implementation.

As the Behavioral Health Community Partner for children, adolescents and their families, the Brien Center’s CSA was awarded federal monies through MassHealth to invest in infrastructure, capacity building, and care coordination.

This funding will allow us to communicate more efficiently with Primary Care offices increasingly inundated with behavioral health referrals. In many instances, parents bring their child to the primary care doctor first to seek help with behavioral problems which makes pediatricians the first responders to behavioral health concerns. However, these offices may not be well-equipped to deal with complicated behavioral problems. It is our hope that under the new Community Partners program, we can assist the pediatricians in Berkshire County to be better equipped for behavioral health referrals.

Our first step in this work will be to begin an outreach initiative to primary care providers for MassHealth youth. Under this program, youth who meet the criteria for Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) will be eligible to receive care coordination.

Care Coordination will work closely with medical practices to improve services and outcomes. The Mass Health transformation is ultimately about better outcomes for patients. A big part of this coordination centers on upgrading digital infrastructure to transmit data that is HIPAA compliant and confidential. In addition, hardware such as laptops and or tablets will be utilized to access and input data from remote sites such as doctor’s offices.

We are looking forward to these improvements and are hopeful that data driven outcomes will provide youth and families with a positive and productive experience.


Click here to download the complete Winter 2018 Newsletter (pdf)