Pune Haghani Tehrani, MD, an assistant professor and medical director of SRMC Primary Care Behavioral Health Integration, has been instrumental in building mental and behavioral health services at the hospital since 2015. “One of the reasons I’m so drawn to the work here is that it fulfills a personal value that serves underserved populations,” she says.

Tehran’s focus on increasing mental and behavioral health services has centered on building systems that are both efficient and effective. For example, he has worked directly with primary care clinics and hospitalist teams at SRMC to assess and address their needs.

Based on input from the clinic and community, Tehrani developed two service lines from scratch: consult with communications and primary care integration. His efforts helped transform the primary care clinic into a patient-centered medical home, which in turn expanded access for patients across the county.

Tehrani has strong relationships throughout the hospital and often acts as a consultant to other physicians there.

Professor Annette Crisanti, PhD, oversaw a one-year, congressionally funded grant based at SRMC that trained and funded peer support workers to provide in-person substance use disorder screening in hospital emergency departments and three inpatient units.

“We wanted to focus on peers to increase access to evidence-based treatment through telehealth because they are so effective in engaging people in services,” said Crisanti, the grant’s principal investigator.

Colleagues provide trauma-informed and trauma-specific treatment and set the stage for continued services via telehealth after individuals leave the hospital. The grant supports addiction specialists to provide drug addiction treatment.

“TeleHath is incredibly important in a county like Sandoval where people may not have transportation or have to drive long distances to get care,” Crisanti said. “At this point, we are the only fully telehealth clinic at UNM.”

The grant can now provide smart phones to participants who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in telehealth services or access important resources like the new 988 crisis line, he said.

It’s challenging to innovate if you don’t have the funds to do it. Brian Isakson, PhD, recently began working with SRMC to support behavioral health program development and growth initiatives.

“I’ll basically serve as a consultant to SRMC leadership,” said Isakson, an associate professor who serves as the division’s clinical director for behavioral health integration and outreach. “My work focuses on exploring federal, state, county and city funding opportunities that will be a good match between SRMC’s behavioral health priority areas and capabilities.”

Isakson is also the Clinical Director of the Community Behavioral Health Division and has extensive experience finding and writing grants and other funding sources to increase access to and develop behavioral health services. “This work is similar to what I did with UNM Health Sciences in terms of writing grant proposals and helping to implement those grants if they are funded,” he says.

Chris Morris is especially pleased to be a part of this effort because he lives in Sandoval County and knows it well.

“We have it all here: vibrant growth, people moving in from other states, 12 tribal communities, little old Spanish villages and a large elderly population,” he says. “The great thing is that it still has a small town feel. People here talk and work together to get things done.”

Morris turns to the analogy of a garden to describe the progress that has been made so far.

“We are planting seeds, cultivating fertile soil, and seeing tangible results for several years,” he says. “Now, we’re bringing in more master gardeners and projects to ensure that growth continues in healthy and viable ways for years to come.”

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