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Trillium looks to patient access, opioid abuse prevention amid changes

The organization responsible for managing state and federal funded mental health, substance use and intellectual/developmental disability services for Beaufort County is seeking ways to give clients better access to care.

Trillium is the managed care organization serving those who receive Medicaid, are uninsured or cannot afford services in Beaufort County and 25 other eastern North Carolina counties. With changes at the state level, the MCO’s role is evolving: insurance companies are slated to take over treating low-risk patients, while Trillium is partnering with two other MCO’s, Alliance Behavioral Health and Vaya Health to bid for statewide coverage to manage care for higher-risk patients, according to Dave Peterson, Trillium’s Central Region director.

“We’re going to have to be partnering with those insurance companies to arrange the coordination of care,” Peterson said. “For example, if someone has basic outpatient services once a month and mental health services once a month, and they have something traumatic happen in their lives and need a higher level care, we’re going to be working with insurance companies to transition to a higher level of care.”

Peterson said Trillium is moving is toward greater access to services, which can be a challenge in rural counties where public transportation is not as available. Tele-services and kiosks that screen mental health are two ways the MCO can provide better access.

“We really have to reach folks in different ways than what we would do in Raleigh,” Peterson said.

Trillium serves 2,880 people in Beaufort County: 2,241 for mental health services; 752 for substance use services; and 334 for intellectual/developmental disability services. The MCO served nearly 54,000 people over the 26 counties and spent more than $355 million in services last year. With its Child First program, Trillium is the only MCO in the state emphasizing prevention in response to the opioid epidemic, in addition to treatment. The program focuses on children, ages 0 to 5 years old, who have experienced trauma.

“Down the road, we’re already starting to see some of the outcomes: it’s reduced the behaviors of some of the kids, and we’re not needing those people to go into facilities,” Peterson said.

Peterson said Beaufort County has been proactive in addressing mental health and substance abuse issues — particularly those involved in Beaufort County 360.

“They’re tackling that from a variety of different directions,” Peterson said. “Health department, DSS, attorneys, child services, provider agencies, housing folks — there’re a lot of different folks that are on the Beaufort County 360. It’s a really good group of folks that are always trying to brainstorm how to better the county.”