Patients in rural America often struggle to access high-quality care. For example, many North Dakota public school students don’t have access to an on-site nurse. This issue is even more prevalent in the field of behavioral health (BH), where access and stigma are still challenges for the entire nation. Even if schools do find a way to bring behavioral health care to their students, it’s often too expensive to be feasible.
Established in 1989, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) Caring Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Through charitable giving and investing, the Caring Foundation focuses on key issues that help improve the health and well-being of North Dakotans and their communities. Caring Foundation staff work with grantees to support nonprofit sustainability, collaborate on shared outcomes, and create lasting change.
BCBSND Caring Foundation connects schools with health systems to bring tele-behavioral health to schools. School district administrators can apply for a grant from BCBSND Caring Foundation and then use the grant to contract with BH professionals for remote services at a discounted rate. BCBSND Caring Foundation grants allow schools to negotiate with providers for the appropriate amount of behavioral health care coverage to support their needs.
The award-winning partnership from BCBSND Caring Foundation has worked with five school districts to contract with Avera Health System’s eCare program. Fourteen students have been treated so far. BCBSND Caring Foundation plans to expand the program across the state and for more conditions.
Instead of embedding therapists in schools, which is the typical model, BCBSND Caring Foundation awarded grants to schools, allowing them to choose their virtual provider partner. Many chose to work with Avera Health Systems to provide tele-behavioral health care to students. BCBSND caring foundation is confronting the stigma around behavioral health care by normalizing treatment for children and their communities.
The three components
BCBSND focused on three factors: why they should partner with students, which providers they should partner with, and how they should use grant funding. This case study will examine how BCBSND approached each of these questions.
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