Gulf Bend opens Place4 Counseling Center in Port Lavaca

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Aug. 1, 2013 at 3:01 a.m.

Gulf Bend Center, which has provided mental health services in the Crossroads for more than 43 years, is expanding its counseling and psychiatric care in Port Lavaca.

Another Place4 Counseling Center, the first of which opened in Victoria in 2008, will treat children, adolescents and adults.

The center's ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Port Lavaca.

"Setting up the new office has been my project," said Kristin Cain-Miller, practice manager for Place4 in Victoria. "Most importantly, the center will serve children with transportation issues or conflicts with school schedules who would not receive treatment otherwise."

Jeannine Griffin, a pediatrician in Port Lavaca, alerted the center's staff to the inadequate behavioral health resources available in Port Lavaca.

In April, the Gulf Bend Center responded by providing a counselor once a week in space provided by Memorial Medical Center. The counselor quickly reached capacity and could not meet the demand.

The Port Lavaca center will offer integrated care, which means it will coordinate the efforts of primary care physicians, counselors and psychiatrists for each patient. Gulf Bend is also working to build an integrated care model with Victoria and other Crossroads hospitals.

Place4 Counseling will employ four full-time licensed professional counselors with specialties in child and adolescent, sexual abuse and substance abuse therapies. Psychiatric services, which focus primarily on medicine management, will be provided by televideo.

The center plans to hire a child and adolescent psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker and other providers.

"Many people who could not find providers in the community were not aware that we accept private insurance," Cain-Miller said.

Place4 Counseling Center accepts Medicaid, managed care plans and employee assistance programs in addition to private insurance. Medicare will cover counseling with a licensed clinical social worker, which the center plans to hire.

Since its inception, Gulf Bend Center has had a contract with the Texas Department of State Health Services to serve indigent populations and those with serious, persistent mental illness. General revenue, or tax dollars, have paid for that treatment.

Place4 Counseling does not use state money, which allows it to broaden its reach with treatments for less severe disorders such as anxiety, stress or grief.

Gulf Bend dipped into reserves for the center's initial infrastructure investment in Port Lavaca, said David Way, associate executive director of Gulf Bend Center. The cost will be recouped by incentive money expected in November. The Medicaid 1115 Waiver rewards projects based on the value of their achieved outcomes.

The federal government approved all of Gulf Bend's projects and values, which is not true across the state, Way said. Values not supported by research are rejected.

Way estimated that Port Lavaca's Place4 Counseling Center, which is part of a greater wellness community project that encompasses Victoria and surrounding counties, would sustain itself within its first year of business.

The behavioral health wellness community will target at-risk populations with mental illness and chronic disease who go untreated or undertreated and who routinely access more costly services such as emergency departments or jails.

The center cannot do it alone, Way said.

"It's a community collaborative," he said. "All the stakeholders the individual is likely to touch must work together to make it happen - health care providers, county hospitals, the sheriff's office, the police department and government programs."

Gulf Bend will continue to use reward money to develop infrastructure, improve technology and recruit professional staff throughout the seven county service area.



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