Tracy DuBois has been a valued addition to the emergency department (ED) team at Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville, NY, where common rural barriers like travel distance and access to specialists have presented challenges. As Jones’s Behavioral Health Assessment Officer (BHAO), Tracy manages the ED visits for all patients identified at screening to have behavioral health concerns and guides those with substance use disorder (SUD) to timely and appropriate treatment, starting them on their path to recovery.
A webinar and tools are now available on the center’s website to help hospitals in rural communities implement the BHAO model to more effectively treat patients with mental health and substance use disorders when they present in the ED. BHAOs are licensed behavioral health providers with expertise to help ED staff, particularly pressed because of COVID, manage the care of these patients. Among other tasks, BHAOs provide naloxone kits and training, refer patients to mental health and SUD treatment programs, facilitate telehealth visits with an off-site psychiatrist if needed, and coordinate with providers to initiate medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in the ED as appropriate.
“Tracy expedites patient referrals to appropriate treatment and helps to facilitate transfers and coordination with outside resources,” said Kelly Foster, Jones Memorial Hospital’s nurse manager. She noted that Jones Memorial has seen decreased patient returns from high utilizers since Tracy started.
Melissa Rackmil, chief nursing officer at St. James Hospital in Hornell, NY, emphasizes the boost the BHAO has brought to care teams and significant benefit to patients. “Our BHAO is a great resource for staff, providing guidance, using de-escalation techniques, and facilitating therapeutics to ensure we provide appropriate, compassionate care for our psychiatric patients,” she said.