LOWELL, MA — A collaboration of Lowell-based healthcare, addiction treatment and support, and mental health agencies has been selected to enter into contract negotiations with MassHealth to become Community Partners, in a new approach designed to connect and streamline care for local MassHealth and Medicaid patients with complex behavioral health and substance abuse needs.

Under this Community Partners program, Lowell Community Health Center; Lowell House Addiction Treatment and Recovery; and the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell will work together to improve continuity and quality of care, promote collaboration, invest in information technology and promote appropriate treatment, while preventing duplication of services from multiple agencies.

Leaders of these organizations anticipate that this new program will transform the way Lowell cares for many patients coping with substance abuse or behavioral health services who struggle to access services or maintain treatment.

“Lowell Community Health Center is excited to partner with Lowell House and the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell as part of this innovative collaborative program,” said Susan West Levine, CEO of Lowell Community Health Center. “Our three organizations share a long-held commitment to serving the behavioral health needs of our community, and this new partnership will position us to increase access and enhance behavioral and physical health.”

“Having the ability to fully integrate mental health, healthcare and treatment services greatly increases the probability that our clients with a disease of addiction will stay in recovery for a lifetime,” said Bill Garr, CEO, Lowell House, Inc., which provides addiction services and support in Greater Lowell.

“This award is an important step for the Greater Lowell community in reforming the local healthcare system. It brings together three well regarded, Lowell based and focused organizations to provide integrated care for Medicaid recipients, with a promise of better health outcomes at lower public dollars,” said Daniel Nakamoto, Executive Director and CEO, Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell, Inc.

Community Partners will receive funds for care coordination activities and to support building the infrastructure and capacity to be able to support this transformative approach. Significant investments will be made under the Community Partner model to provide comprehensive care management to support adults with serious mental illness and/or substance use disorders.

The Baker-Polito Administration recently announced that 17 Massachusetts health care organizations, including a partnership of Wellforce (the parent company of Lowell General Hospital and Circle Health) and Fallon Health, have executed agreements to participate as MassHealth’s ACOs. Effective March 1, 2018, ACOs, networks of physicians, hospitals and other community based health care providers, will be financially accountable for cost, quality, and member experience for their MassHealth patients.