Amelia Muse, a current employee of the Center of Excellence for Integrated Care (COE), has recently transitioned to a new role. Previously a Integration Consultant, she will now be the Director of Operations for COE.
In her role before the transition, Amelia provided training, on-site support, and resources to medical and behavioral health providers working to integrate their services to provide higher quality care to patients and the community. In her new role as Director of Operations, she will focus the majority of her time on overseeing the day-to-day activities of COE, facilitating internal development and research, and managing overall productivity of staff.
In March, Sara Herrity joined the Foundation as a Technical Assistant for The Center of Excellence. In her role, she will provide training, on-site support, and resources to medical and behavioral health providers working to integrate their health care services. We asked Sara a few questions to get to know her better:
Q. Where are you from and how did you end up in North Carolina?
I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and my family used to vacation in the Outer Banks, NC. My dad was unhappy with his job so quit on a whim, opened a map, showed it to my mom and told her to pick a place to move to and she picked the OBX! I was 3 at a the time and grew up at the beach. Despite musings of moving out of state for college I ended up at UNC-Chapel Hill for college and East Carolina University for graduate school and have no plans to leave NC any time soon!
Q. What drew you to the Foundation and COE?
In graduate school I met my best friends who all happened to work in integrated care – except for me. I believed I wanted to be a full-time marriage and family therapist and do therapy all day every day. After experiences in schools, churches, and the last 3 and a half years at a community mental health agency in Raleigh, I knew I wanted a change. For much of the last year I researched a bit about integrated care and the possibility of helping agencies provide more whole person care – something I felt was lacking at my mental health agency. Luckily one of those best friends from graduate school – Amelia Muse – reached out to me that COE was looking for a new Technical Assistant and I immediately jumped with excitement because I have been able to see first-hand as a clinician the importance of the work COE is doing, and how much more work we have left to do. I’m honored to be a part of this team and the foundation!
Q. What type of organizations have you worked for in the past?
For the last 3 and a half years I have worked at a community mental health agency called Turning Point Family CARE as an outpatient therapist for clients with Medicaid or no insurance. For a year and a half of my time there I conducted comprehensive clinical assessments with women who were in a recovery facility to help them get mental health services. In graduate school I also worked with a local church to provide pre-marital and marital counseling as well as with a middle school to provide mental health services.
Q. What are you excited for in this position?
I am extremely excited to work with this team, as they have such passion and drive for integrated care which matches my own. I love the opportunity to work with people in the community in a variety of areas and a variety of ways whether it be via teaching, observing, supporting, or researching, and the incredible new experiences and people I will get to meet along the way, all in an effort to provide more effective whole-person care to others.
Q. What do you like to do for fun/ in your free time?
I love getting to spend time with my family and friends. Most of my family lives in Pennsylvania, near or in Philadelphia so I try to get up there several times a year – especially to see my 7-month-old nephew who is also my godson. My mom and sister still live in the Outer Banks so I always love to go visit them often in the summer. Being outside is my favorite so any excuse to go to the beach, go for a walk or hike, or just simply sit in the sun with a good beer and close friends is my idea of the perfect day!
The Center of Excellence for Integrated Care adds another level of expertise by welcoming Neftali Serrano as Associate Director. The Center of Excellence aims to integrate patients’ physical and behavioral health across health care settings. Serrano has years of experience doing just that, and we asked him a few questions to get to know him better:
What attracted you to the Center of Excellence? After 14 years as a clinician and program developer I was looking for an opportunity to train a behavioral health workforce in primary care in a more efficient, scaled fashion. The Center of Excellence provides this opportunity to engage an entire state in developing an integrated care workforce. This is a really exciting opportunity.
Where were you before accepting this position? Before coming to the Center of Excellence I was the director of behavioral health at Access Community Health Centers in Madison, Wisconsin where I developed a primary care behavioral health program that is one of the most mature and successful programs in the country. The team there is great and one of my proudest accomplishments professionally is that when I left the program was a strong as it ever was and will continue on in perpetuity as a result.
What are your hopes for the position? I hope that in five years or so we are all able to look back and reflect how we were able to train hundreds of behavioral health professionals to provide integrated care to thousands of patients across the state of North Carolina and set a model for how to do so in a sustainable fashion for other states to follow.
In your experience, what’s been the best strategy for successful behavioral health integration? The keys to successful integration are actually pretty simple. First, it is essential to have a relatively healthy organization. No project of any kind thrives in a dysfunctional organization. Second, it is essential to have clear that one of the main goals of integration is to support the day-to-day work of primary care clinicians. In other words, whatever you do should make life easier for the main cogs of your workforce. Third, you need behavioral health professionals who are truly able and willing to adopt a new professional identity related to primary care. Mental health professionals who work in primary care become a new breed or type of professional and embracing this is core to working through all the inter professional issues that will arise. And of course it is essential the mental professionals remember the first key, which is the primary care clinician is their first customer.