The leaders of Philhaven and WellSpan Health have agreed to explore an affiliation that would bring together the two organizations’ behavioral and mental health services as part of WellSpan Health’s non-profit, community-based system of care. Both governing boards have approved a Memorandum of Understanding, which is a non-binding agreement that outlines a potential affiliation.
According to Philip D. Hess, M.H.A., CEO of Philhaven, and WellSpan Health President and CEO Kevin H. Mosser, M.D., the proposed affiliation would combine the talents of the behavioral health leaders and clinicians of Philhaven and WellSpan Health in order to develop an integrated system of behavioral health that would serve the region while enhancing local systems of care in York, Adams, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
“Philhaven and WellSpan Health share a vision of transforming and innovating by integrating mental health and physical health care services, with a focus on meeting patient needs in multiple settings,” said Hess. “By working in partnership with WellSpan Health, the Philhaven leadership team is confident the combined approach will allow us to work more efficiently to improve health outcomes and the patient experience, all while managing costs for people who need support.”
According to Mosser, understanding and addressing the relationship between physical and mental health is important to improving the overall health of an individual and community.
“Often, the key to achieving better physical health rests in one’s ability to manage mental and behavioral conditions,” Mosser said. “At WellSpan, we believe that strengthening the community’s mental health care system and coordinating that care with other services that people need across life’s journey will allow WellSpan and Philhaven to help our friends and neighbors achieve healthier lives. It is one of the primary benefits of this proposed affiliation.”
Hess noted that fewer healthcare organizations across the U.S. and in the central Pennsylvania region provide behavioral health services today than even a decade ago because of the financial challenge of sustaining those services. Even recruitment from medical schools is proving more difficult than ever.
At the same time, the pressure to care for more patients is acute, and the need for behavioral health services is projected to increase significantly due to a variety of factors, including increased needs in older adults and children and a movement toward de-stigmatizing mental health across the nation.
“Health needs assessments that are regularly conducted in the communities of our region all identify mental health as one of the most significant issues that are adversely affecting the overall health of our communities,” added Hess.
Working in collaboration with other health care providers in the region, Philhaven and WellSpan Health would:
• develop a regional, diversified behavioral health network;
• integrate with primary care and specialty care; and
• offer its services through local communities in central Pennsylvania.
Hess noted that both organizations believe in developing a behavioral health organization with diverse levels of care, support for all patients, innovative practices and strong outcomes. They are also committed to the development of education and training programs to attract future behavioral health providers to the region.
“This affiliation would position the combined organizations to make a significant contribution to innovation of behavioral healthcare and developing models of care,” Hess said.
Philhaven and WellSpan share a rich tradition and longstanding commitment to providing the highest level of behavioral health in their respective communities. Philhaven currently serves individuals through 19 locations across Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin and York counties. WellSpan serves the communities of York, Adams and Lancaster counties at seven sites.
Both CEOs point to the similarities of their organizations’ non-profit missions of service as the common ground on which they will pursue a more meaningful difference in the lives of those they serve.
An agency of the Lancaster Conference of the Mennonite Church USA since 1952, Philhaven traces its roots to World War II, when a group of Mennonite young men staffed state mental hospitals.
“They believed that there had to be a better way to care for the mentally ill than what they saw in those hospitals,” Hess said. “It was this mission that has guided the evolution of the 13th largest provider of behavioral health in the United States today. In WellSpan, we believe we have found a partner whose mission to work as one to provide exceptional care for all and lifelong wellness will position us to continue the legacy of these visionary young Mennonites and church leaders well into the future.”
WellSpan’s rich tradition in meeting the behavioral health needs of south central Pennsylvania dates back to 1962, when York Hospital added a 12-bed psychiatric unit. Today, the health system serves area residents through inpatient behavioral health units at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital and WellSpan York Hospital, as well as outpatient locations across York and Adams counties.
According to Hess and Mosser, Philhaven and WellSpan Health have enjoyed positive working relationships with other local health care providers, and both organizations are committed to maintaining these relationships in order to provide area residents access to high-quality behavioral health care in a convenient manner. Because WellSpan Health and Philhaven serve different geographic areas and patient populations, neither organization anticipates a consolidation of clinical services or a reduction of clinical staff but would expect to see expanded services in the future.
Lancaster Mennonite Conference offers Support of the exploration of affiliation
Keith Weaver, Moderator, Lancaster Mennonite Conference, states, “I respect Philhaven’s deep convictions of finding a better way to care for the mental health of our population. The potential establishment of a Foundation would allow for the continuation of the faith-based aspect of behavioral healthcare.”