Community Health Systems experiencing growth with its behavioral health clinic

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BELOIT - Community Health Systems, Inc. (CHS) is growing after opening its behavioral health clinic in October of 2018.

Julie Sprecher, CEO, said the Health System, which oversees the Beloit Area Community Health Center (BACHC) in Beloit, expects to expand the clinic even more. She said the behavioral health clinic is currently seeing 300 patients and has four counselors (one of which serves as clinic director), two prescribers, a psychiatrist and a psychiatric nurse practitioner. The behavioral health clinic was created in collaboration with Rock County, whose counselors were seeing patients on the other side of the former mall complex in Beloit. All of the former patients seen by Rock County counselors are now seen at BACHC.

"Mental health and the substance and alcohol abuse is a pervasive issue here in Beloit and across the United States," Sprecher said. "We all need to as communities step in and work together so we have the capacity to deal with this problem. It's huge. By us opening up this, it by no means solves the problem, but it's a piece of solving the problem."

The health system is celebrating other successes as well. On Feb. 21, the Internal Revenue Service retroactively reinstated the health system's nonprofit status.

The health system had its 501(c)(3) status revoked in November of 2017, with the revocation posting in March of 2018. The issue stems from CHS not filing required tax-related documents for three consecutive years in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The health system also emerged from bankruptcy last year after years of financial issues and is set to pay off its creditors in full by June. It filed for bankruptcy protection in March of 2014 after CHS reported a $1 million deficit.

"I've been here since day one when we went through the financial difficulty. It just warms my heart to see the staff that I have and the commitment of the individuals that work here and care for our patients," Sprecher said. "I'm also very encouraged about the interactions we've had in the community and the support I'm getting from many of the people I've met and worked with. I'm really looking forward to our growth in the next three to five years."

Sprecher said the center is currently at max capacity in terms of space and service areas. Sprecher said the center could use more exam rooms. To solve this problem, Sprecher said the health system is considering an expansion of its clinic. One idea is expand directly behind the center. She said there's vacant space where the former Beloit mall used to be.

"We're reaching out to the community," Sprecher said. "I've been meeting with many people to see how we can continue to serve this medically undersevered population by expanding our services."

She specifically thanked Beloit Health System for its continued support, which has included providing a medical director.

The health system also is working on offering to drug and alcohol treatment hopefully by next year. This would add medication and group treatments as an option for those fighting substance abuse.

"We will have both areas: the drug and alcohol treatment along with the counseling so we can treat the whole patient, then we also will use the integrated care model with our primary care and our social workers," Sprecher said. "It'll be a one stop shop for our patients so they can get complete care."

Currently, Sprecher said counselors are treating people for ADHD, anxiety, depression and the underlying conditions that create alcohol and drug abuse. She said the clinic will continue to only offer outpatient treatment.

"At this point we have room to accept patients. We just want to make sure we're being careful we're accepting patients we can truly help," Sprecher said. "There's a higher level of mental health out there that requires more inpatient treatment or a crisis center, and that's not what we are here. We're a counseling center with some medication assistance."

Sprecher also would like to expand the center's pediatric behavioral care.

The health system is currently developing its three year strategic plan, which will include all of these goals.

The center is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

"That's a huge milestone for us to have a federally qualified health center here for 20 years, and we look at being here 20 years more," Sprecher said.

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