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Ballad Health, Gov. Bill Lee Launch Effort to Provide Strong Futures for Women and Babies

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Ballad Health, Gov. Bill Lee Launch Effort to Provide Strong Futures for Women and Babies

Repurposed Greeneville hospital, with investment from State of Tennessee and Ballad Health, to house new addiction-treatment facility

As an organization committed to serving the needs of women and children throughout the Appalachian Highlands, Ballad Health announced today a major investment into serving the specialized needs of pregnant women, babies and families, who suffer from the pain of addiction.

The Ballad Health Strong Futures program, which will be housed at the former Takoma Regional Hospital in Greeneville, will provide residential and other care for pregnant women and mothers who suffer from addiction or need other behavioral health services. The program will provide a range of residential and outpatient behavioral health services, including addiction treatment, that will help ensure the strongest-possible new beginnings for women and their children.

“Ballad Health is proud to bring these much-needed services to women in the Appalachian Highlands,” said Tammy Albright, vice president and chief executive officer of Ballad Health Behavioral Health Services and former president of Greeneville Community Hospital.

“This is a big step in our efforts to bridge some of the gaps in care for our community. This program is an investment in our community that can also help break the cycle of poverty and bring brighter futures to families in the Appalachian Highlands.”

Ballad Health first announced its intent to repurpose the hospital last year, as it consolidated acute care hospital services for what is now known as Greeneville Community Hospital. The plans for development of this program were so compelling, the State of Tennessee made its own independent commitment to support the program for its first two years through a two-year, $7 million grant furnished by the Tennessee Department of Human Services. And the Tennessee Department of Health officially decommissioned the acute care beds at Takoma Regional Hospital, a necessary step for the conversion to a residential facility.

“This is the promise of Ballad Health – that by listening to what our communities need, modernizing care delivery and working with state and national partners, we can strengthen our region and contribute to its success,” said Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine. “We know – and have known for a while – that to truly impact health, we have to look beyond medical care and reach into modifiable social determinants and behaviors.

“Addiction, poverty, health and education are all interrelated, and they all have far-stretching consequences that affect families for generations. For Ballad Health to address something as broad as a region’s health status, we must look into each of these elements and see how we can create positive change from the very beginning of someone’s life.”

Swift and strong support from state leaders

Support for this initiative was swift and strong. The following state leaders applauded Ballad Health and its commitment to serving the specialized needs of women:

Gov. Bill Lee: “I am proud that our administration is working to partner with regional healthcare leaders like Ballad Health and ETSU to provide high-quality care to more Tennesseans. Women and their children deserve strong starts, and Ballad Health has built a modern approach. This investment in both the Center for Rural Health and Research, as well as more pediatric specialists, will deliver much-needed care to families in Northeast Tennessee.”

Senator Rusty Crowe: “As Chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, it has been my goal to help solve Tennessee’s biggest healthcare challenges. Women in our region deserve the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy, and it is in all of our interests to ensure these children come into the world with the best opportunity for a healthy childhood. I am pleased the State of Tennessee has chosen to invest $7 million into this fantastic idea, and I look forward to seeing its success. Congratulations to Ballad Health, ETSU and the Strong Accountable Care Community for all they are doing to serve the needs of women and babies in our region. This is what partnerships should look like.”

Senator Jon Lundberg: “I can’t think of anything more important than making sure our children have a pathway to a successful life, and Ballad Health’s efforts here will make a big difference. I am so pleased to see this partnership develop between Ballad Health and the State, and further, I am glad to see the state making this investment in our region. We should all want every woman to have hope, and opportunity, so that fewer children end up in state foster care or fail to achieve their God-given potential simply because of the pain of addiction and the wreckage it causes. I applaud Ballad Health, and stand ready to support them in this effort.”

Representative David Hawk: “Ballad Health and the Tennessee State Legislature share a goal – to make life better for all Tennesseans and position our great state for success and prosperity. I applaud Ballad Health for the initiative and insight that has led to the creation of this new program, which will affect major change at a palpable, grassroots level. I’m honored to have played my role in supporting this program, which will be of enormous benefit to not just my constituents, but everyone in the region.”

Tennessee Commissioner of Health, Lisa Piercey: “Providing supportive services for women is essential to their recovery and the future of their families, and this evidence-based program will improve outcomes for women while providing a strong start for their children to be healthy, successful in the classroom, and free from childhood trauma. The State of Tennessee applauds this effort, and we are pleased to see the partnerships Ballad Health is building with the Accountable Care Community, academic partners like ETSU and, of course, the families who will benefit from this program.”

Dr. Brian Noland, President of East Tennessee State University: “The partnership between Ballad Health and East Tennessee State University is critical to the success of our region, and this program is evidence of the incredible work that is being done. The Ballad Health Strong Brain Institute at ETSU will be a critical partner in helping to improve efforts to prevent childhood trauma, and in helping to share our knowledge with the rest of the world. This new program, in partnership with the Ballad Health Strong Brain Institute at ETSU, will help the next generation of health care leaders better understand the challenges of addiction, and the connection between addiction, poverty and poor health. This partnership that Ballad Health has established strengthens our community, and ETSU is proud to be a partner with Ballad Health in this effort.”

The initiative to create strong futures

In the State of Tennessee alone, more than 8,000 children are in state custody through the public foster care system – meaning these children have been removed from family situations that are potentially harmful to them. Addiction, illiteracy, abuse and neglect are among the driving forces that lead to this result. Underlying all of this is the relationship to alcohol and various forms of drugs.  
 
Only 36% of children in this region read at 3rd-grade proficiency by the third grade. Studies show that children who do not read at third grade level by the 3rd grade are four times less likely to complete high school prepared for college or careers.

And only a small percentage of children are kindergarten-ready by the age of five.

Ballad Health believes a foundational issue which will, over time, change this trajectory, is to ensure that children are born with a strong start. And the first area of focus needs to be those women who are most at risk.

Our focus:

Ballad Health Strong Futures will take a 360-degree approach to care and treatment for women and their families, including access to behavioral health services and a residential addiction treatment facility.

The program also addresses social determinants of health, and to that end, it offers:

  • Child counseling
  • Collaborative provider partnerships
  • Community engagement and enrichment activities
  • Daycare services
  • Educational opportunities
  • Financial stability counseling
  • Health and well-being counseling
  • Individual, group and marriage counseling
  • Intensive case management
  • Literacy improvement
  • Parenting skill education
  • Referral services
  • Relapse prevention services two-generational, family-centered treatment
  • Resiliency-building exercises and education
  • Trauma-informed care education
  • Workforce development services

Fathers and other family members will also have access to services, rounding out a program that aims to provide to support and care at a community level.

“If we’re to support the well-being, and eventually the futures and opportunities, of these babies, we have to make sure their mothers have support during and after pregnancy, and the family unit is lifted up and cared for, as well,” said Dr. Michael Bermes, PhD, senior director of addiction services for Ballad Health. “Much of our capacity for resiliency and future success is founded in our early lives and family structure, so if we can build a strong enough foundation, the next generations will be able to reach higher, achieve more and, overall, live better.”

Strong Futures will serve community members in Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties. Ballad Health will begin receiving applications for the program beginning Monday, Feb. 1.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and either an expectant mother, a mother with children younger than 18 living at home or a mother with children younger than 18 attempting to regain custody. Applicants must also be willing to undergo a complete medical and psychiatric screening, have a diagnosed substance use disorder, be able to adequately focus and fully participate in all aspects of treatment and be willing to participating in a family-centered holistic continuum of care.

Building a stronger region

Ballad Health Strong Futures will work in tandem with existing community initiatives that are addressing multiple regional needs, such as the STRONG Accountable Care Community, and it will work with academic partners like ETSU to study and learn from our efforts. Ballad Health’s creation of the Ballad Health Strong Brain Institute and Center for Trauma Informed Care at ETSU, will help use the information we learn to improve efforts nationwide to address childhood trauma.

Ballad Health is one of the backbone organizations of STRONG, which uses a Collective Model Framework to build resilience, support families and create safer, more stable and nurturing environments for children and families, addressing the important interconnected relationship between health, education and income, seeking to impact all three for lasting generational change.

Additionally, the new program will function hand-in-hand with other Ballad Health facilities and service lines, such as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) specialty care and Families Thrive programs conducted through Niswonger Children’s Hospital, the numerous therapies and outreach services of Overmountain Recovery and the day-to-day care provided by Ballad Health Medical Associates’ obstetricians and gynecologists, who will be instrumental in referring patients to the new recovery program.

“Ballad Behavioral Health Services was established for the purpose of creating innovative solutions and expanding partnerships to bring help to those who need it,” Levine said. “Our partners in this effort, including STRONG, ETSU, other parts of Ballad Health, community and social services and our Greeneville Visioning Committee, are all united in helping us establish what could be a model program for women in need.

“We’re very excited to tap into the skills and expertise throughout our health system, including our population health team, as well as other partners and local leaders, to change the trajectory of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

Also working alongside program participants will be peer recovery specialists, team members who have experienced substance abuse disorders or other behavioral health concerns – either firsthand or through a close relative – and have completed education and training to help others through their journeys.

“Recovery takes many different forms, and we’re so fortunate to have these team members who can share their stories of recovery with the people who need to hear them,” Albright said. “I’m particularly glad we will have peer recovery specialists who are mothers themselves, with experience having children in and out of the Department of Children’s Services, who can walk with our patients through their recoveries.”

At the conclusion of the grant period, Ballad Health will be evaluated on self-defined metrics such as job training, GED pass rates and other quantitative benchmarks.

“With our behavioral health services, particularly addiction and substance treatment, success is hope!” Albright said. “You can feel the hope in women and these families, and in the end, if our participants know there are other people who care about them and want to work alongside them to help them heal and accomplish their goals – this program will be a success.”

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