- Find a DoctorDoctors by Specialty
- Cardiac Electrophysiology
- Colon & Rectal Surgery
- Family Medicine
- General & Vascular Surgery
- Gynecological Oncology
- Infectious Disease
- Internal Medicine
- Interventional Cardiology
- Interventional Radiology
- Obstetrics & Gynecology
- Oncology & Hematology
- Orthopedic Surgery
- Pulmonary Medicine
- Radiation Oncology
- Sleep Medicine
- Thoracic Surgery
- View All Doctors
- Our ServicesMedical Services
- Bariatric Services
- Behavioral & Mental Health
- Breast Care
- Cancer Care
- Critical Care
- Ear, Nose, & Throat
- Emergency Services
- Heart Care
- Home Care
- Hospice & Palliative Care
- Imaging & Diagnostics
- Long-Term Care
- Primary Care
- Rehabilitation Therapies
- Robotic-Assisted Surgery
- Sleep Services
- Spine Care
- Stroke Care
- Surgery Services
- Telehealth Services
- Urgent Care
- Virtual Urgent Care
- Women’s Services
- Wound Care
- Our LocationsLocations by Type
- Patients & Visitors
- About UsAbout UsCommunity Programs & Events
Knox Area Mental Health Providers Coalition earns state awardLast updated on December 11, 2023
Coalition brings agencies together to help underserved populations
Dec. 11, 2023 (Knoxville, Tenn.) – The Knox Area Mental Health Providers Coalition (KAMHPC), which was formed by members of Covenant Health, has earned a statewide award for innovation and creativity for the coalition’s approach to patients facing mental and behavioral health issues.
KAMHPC received the recognition from the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organization (TAMHO), and the Innovation and Creativity Award was presented at the TAMHO 2023 Annual Conference in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on Dec. 6, 2023. In addition to the KAMHPC award, Mark Potts, LCSW, director of clinical services for Peninsula, received The Distinguished Leader Award from TAMHO.
The coalition is a joint initiative created to improve healthcare coordination for patients in the community. Since its inception, the coalition has seen a reduction in hospital stays, length of stays, number of emergency room visits and psychiatric visits in a 16-month period of the patients studied.
The following agencies participate in the coalition: Covenant HomeCare and Hospice, Covenant Health acute care facilities, Peninsula Behavioral Health, Cherokee Health Systems, McNabb Center and Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM).
“We cannot think of better words to describe the coalition than innovative and creative, and we can’t think of better needs in our industry than to use innovation, collaboration and cooperation to improve the access and better the care available to patients in Tennessee,” said Liz Clary, MHA, BSN, RN and vice president of behavioral health at Peninsula. “We are committed to continuing our work to serve the mental and behavioral health needs in our communities, and I am so proud of the coalition member agencies, of Peninsula and my employer Covenant Health – and of Mark Potts and his outstanding leadership.”
Mental health providers in the greater Knoxville area have consistently seen gaps related to mental health care, particularly in unhoused populations. The coalition addresses the need for more streamlined care coordination to those who frequently use mental health resources – and therefore may have multiple encounters with various agencies. The coalition was formed to better care for the people in the community who most need these resources.
“Building the relationships and networking between community organizations and mental health providers opened the door for collaboration,” Potts said. “We now have contacts at each agency that allow us to have a more open dialogue with ongoing discussions about patient care needs and barriers.”
During a 16-month period, the coalition followed a group of patients in a study where their inpatient, outpatient and emergency room encounters were evaluated. Agency partners tracked the patients’ medical and psychiatric visits from Jan. 1, 2020, to March 15, 2023, known as the “intervention period.” Those involved signed a release of information consent form for the purpose of the study.
The study aimed to reduce readmittance of patients to the ER by redirecting their care to agencies that are better suited to serve the needs of each person. The expectation was to see reductions in emergency department visits, inpatient admissions and length of stay in both hospital and psychiatric patients after enrolling in the program.
After comparing the patients during a pre-intervention period with their post-intervention period, it was found that hospital emergency room visits were reduced by 61%. Hospital inpatient encounters were reduced by 37% and psychiatric inpatient encounters were reduced by 74%.
Participants received assistance setting up medical appointments, including psychiatric evaluations, medication and transportation. One of the participants celebrated 100 days of sobriety and was able to repair an estranged family relationship.
“We identified barriers to good patient outcomes and bolstered our resources to help people who are struggling with permanent housing and substance use,” Potts said. “Additional barriers this study addressed included distance and time to receive care, identifying underserved and ‘high utilizers’ of emergency care and defining pathways to patient care such as centralizing care onsite at KARM when possible.”
The Covenant Health executive leadership team added a social worker for the initiative, and the Fort Sanders Foundation covered the annual cost. The social worker provides hands-on assistance to follow through with each patient’s plan, such as helping them get into KARM programs or referrals to inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient mental health clinics, primary care appointments or referrals group homes and halfway houses or the steps to apply for TennCare.
“Having more resources come together, rather than try to treat patients individually, has resulted in better outcomes for both the providers and the patients who were already using a multi-provider care plan,” Potts said.
The coalition meets biweekly and assesses new patients who are added to the group’s service outreach. Hospital case managers at Covenant Health hospitals can refer patients to this service and the initiative is ongoing.
About the Knox Area Mental Health Providers Coalition
Established in 2021 by Covenant Health, this mental health coalition was created to improve care coordination for patients in our community with mental health needs. Member agencies include Covenant HomeCare and Hospice, Covenant Health acute care facilities, Peninsula Behavioral Health, Cherokee Health Systems, McNabb Center and Knox Area Rescue Ministries. By using a team approach and establishing connections between agencies, the coalition is better able to serve the population of those needing mental and behavioral resources.
From a healthcare perspective, the coalition aims to reduce repeat hospital admissions and connect those in need to proper resources. From a patient perspective, the coalition aims to centralize and streamline the care needed in underserved populations and make it easier to obtain peer support; recovery programs for substance use; psychiatric treatment for suicidal ideation and attempts; counseling for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues; and permanent housing.
The coalition allows for patients to have better, more streamlined access to social workers, medical care, financial assistance for treatment, transportation and connections to resources such as Veterans Affairs or A&D rehab options. The team approach to care coordination of underserved and unhoused populations means fewer repeat trips to the emergency room for the same ailment, psychiatric support outside of the hospital, more access to resources and better patient outcomes. The coalition was formed as a result of Covenant HomeCare’s work with the homeless population at KARM and seeing the need for better care coordination for patients with mental health needs.
About Covenant Health
Covenant Health is a Tennessee-based healthcare enterprise committed to providing the right care at the right time and place. As a not-for-profit health system, we are dedicated to being the region’s premier healthcare network through service, community, and innovation. We provide patient-centered care that inspires clinical and service excellence and strive to be the first and best choice for our patients, employees, physicians, employers, volunteers, and communities. Covenant Health is the area’s largest employer and has more than 11,000 compassionate caregivers, expert clinicians, and dedicated employees and volunteers. Learn more at CovenantHealth.com.