Merck Grant Helps Sustain the Bertie County Integrated Behavioral Health Network

During the 50th-anniversary celebration of the NC Office of Rural Health held on November 16th, 2023, National Rural Health Day, we had the privilege to announce that the Bertie County Behavioral Health Network received a $300,000 grant from the Merck Office of Social Business Innovation and Merck Foundation. Our partners at the Bertie County Council on Aging – Senior Center accepted it on behalf of the Network. 

The goal of the Network is to build health infrastructure in Bertie through community engagement and implement projects focused on reducing stigma about mental health and substance use, providing telebehavioral health services to youth in Bertie County Schools, and developing the local behavioral health workforce. 

This funding will help continue the collaborative work that two FHLI programs, the Center of Excellence for Integrated Care (COE) and Community Voice, have been doing with our partners over the past year and a half to develop community-driven solutions that address the health needs of residents across the county.  

Learn more about the many Network projects and initiatives this funding will help sustain in Bertie County. 

What Is the Bertie County Integrated Behavioral Health Network? 

Bertie is a rural county in eastern North Carolina. Communities throughout the county have consistently faced challenges related to health outcomes, especially regarding mental health and substance use, due to long-standing health access and equity issues.  

There is also a strong spirit of community across the county, along with a shared desire to address these challenges. The goal of the Bertie County Behavioral Health Network is to bring local organizations, providers, and residents together to drive community-based solutions. FHLI acts as the facilitator for the Network. 

Network partners include over 30 local and regional organizations including A Better Chance A Better Community, Access East, East Carolina University, Albemarle Regional Health Services, Greater Wynns Grove Baptist Church, FHLI, and many more. 

What Will the $300,000 Merck Grant Help Fund? 

The three goals of the Network are to:  

  1. Improve access to health care across the county. 
  2. Expand capacity and services for youth and families to address unmet health needs.
  3. Enhance outcomes by reducing stigma in the community regarding behavioral health and improving health prevention awareness.

Better Access to Health Care for All Bertie County Community Members

One of the major barriers to accessing health care throughout the county is lack of provider availability. The Network is especially focused on increasing the behavioral health workforce in Bertie and establishing career pathways for local youth to work in the behavioral health field. 

Greater Capacity and Services for Youth and Families to Help Address Unmet Health Needs

The Network is expanding access to youth services by integrating telehealth services in schools, including telebehavioral health. Additionally, there is a concerted effort to expand family-based services in the community as well as to engage community members in parenting classes at the local health department and other community organizations.ngage community members in parenting classes at the local health department and other community organizations. 

Improve Health Outcomes Via “Stop the Stigma” and Other Health Awareness Campaigns

Another significant barrier to accessing behavioral health care is stigma and lack of information about mental and behavioral health needs. The Network will continue its “Stop the Stigma” campaign for behavioral health as well as raise awareness and help drive community engagement through Mental Health First Aid training

To improve the community’s availability and awareness of overdose prevention resources, the Network will provide training on both harm reduction and administering Naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids. 

Additionally, the Network will continue promoting diabetes education and treatment, and 

cardiovascular disease prevention awareness campaigns and host educational events for both. 

What Is Behavioral Health? 

Behavioral health helps people address mental health and substance use disorders as well as lifestyle challenges, stress, crisis situations, and more. Behavioral health integration refers to primary and specialty care teams collaborating with behavioral health clinicians to provide whole-person care and improve health outcomes for the people they serve.  

Depending on the context, mental and behavioral health are sometimes used interchangeably, as the language continues to develop. In general, though, behavioral health is seen as a more all-encompassing term that includes the full spectrum of health and wellness. 

Why Is Integrated Care Important? 

Integrated health care is based on extensive collaboration and communication among health professionals. It benefits patients, caregivers, providers, and the whole health care system. Information-sharing enables providers to better develop and follow through with comprehensive treatment plans that address the full scope of people’s needs and support their whole health. 

Integrated care teams often include physicians, nurses, mental health providers, behavioral health specialists, and other health professionals. This approach has been shown to improve health outcomes, quality of care, and access to services as well as to low overall costs. 

Stay Connected & Support Community-Driven Solutions 

Integrated care, community-driven solutions, and systems-level policy changes are key to creating more accessible and equitable health care in Bertie County and across the state. Stay engaged and informed by following us on LinkedIn and signing up for North Carolina public health news updates

Bertie County Behavioral Health Network Members 
A Better Chance A Better Community 
Access East
Albemarle Alliance for Children and Families
Albemarle Regional Health Services
Alliance for a Healthier Generation
Bertie County Cooperative Extension 
Bertie County Council on Aging – Senior Center
Bertie County Schools
Bertie County Sheriff’s Office
Bertie County YMCA
Bertie Rural Health Association
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC
CareNet Counseling
East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine
Eastern Area Health Education Center
ECU Health Bertie Hospital
ECU Health Chowan Hospital
Eustress – The Good Stress Company
Family Support Network of Eastern North Carolina
Galileo Health
Greater Wynns Grove Baptist Church
Mid-East Commission
NC Agromedicine Institute
NC Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network
NC Office of Rural Health
Pittman’s Pharmacy
Retired Governmental Employees Association
Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center
Roanoke Chowan Community College
Trillium Health Resources