AYER -- Nashoba Valley Medical Center has received more than $300,000 in state funding to boost programs that its president says are addressing a growing need.

Part of the $318,240 grant from the state's Office of Health and Human Services will support the hiring of two behavioral health clinicians, said NVMC President Sal Perla.

The two clinicians will conduct emergency behavioral health crisis evaluations in the emergency department -- a service that the center currently contracts out, he said.

"Now, in this new program, there'll be someone here 17 hours a day," he said. "So there'll be no more waiting, we'll have that clinician here."

The need for such help in emergency settings is very important, he said.

"Now we're seeing more and more behavioral health and substance-abuse crises in the emergency department, whereas 10 years ago it was very rare," he said. "I think Nashoba being a small community hospital has always seen less than others, but today we see that every day."

The positions are usually masters-level clinicians whose primary focus is addressing the health and wellness needs of mental-health patients, he said, and it will make a huge difference to have those resources available almost all night.

The center will receive $207,795 for the two positions.

The other $110,445 of the grant will fund the position of a Community Health Advocate, part of a program that places bilingual health workers in the community to enroll residents in health insurance.


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Perla said that over the past few years, the center has seen an increase in patients contacting their primary care physicians looking for resources.

"A lot of times, behavioral health patients don't have primary care physicians, which really is a concern because you're not getting regular screenings and all the other preventative medicine approaches that are conducted with most other people," he said.

The center had the advocate program for the year, he said, but the hospital was self-funding it.

"These types of positions -- advocates, behavioral health clinicians, traditionally do not get reimbursed by insurance companies," he said.

Perla said NVMC has received small grants from the Health and Human Services department, but nothing of this size and nothing focused on behavioral health and crisis intervention.

"This is really our first and we're really excited about it," he said.

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