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Press Release

Contra Costa County health center example of improved care through ACA

Concord Health Center Building 2 integrates behavioral and physical health care

Monday, November 18, 2013

The expansion of a Contra Costa County health center in Concord is an example of health care reform taking shape at the local level.

Health reform calls for providing additional behavioral health services and better linking these services with other care. Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) is helping make this happen for residents through an innovative transformation effort that integrates behavioral and physical health care into one location at the center, said Dr. William Walker, CCHS Director and County Health Officer. CCHS celebrates the expansion of its Concord Health Center with an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. today at its new CHC Building 2, at 3024 Willow Pass Road.

"This is just one more example of why the Affordable Care Act is so vital to our community's health and how health care reform is transforming the way care is delivered," Dr. Walker said.

The facility is the first of Contra Costa County's 10 health centers to integrate the two services. This change addresses the longstanding issue of how to get behavioral health services to people who need them but don't know how to seek them or whose needs aren't severe enough for emergency psychiatric services, said Dr. Chris Farnitano, CCHS Ambulatory Care Medical Director.

"Having integrated services helps to diagnose and treat people for both mental and physical conditions. We are creating a medical home where all their health needs can be met. This is more convenient for patients and will have a great impact on the health of the people we serve," Dr. Farnitano said.

Historically, behavioral health services, such as treatment for depression and substance abuse, are often provided in settings separate from where people get their primary physical care like doctor visits and blood tests. This often means only part of a person's health is addressed, said Cynthia Belon, LCSW, Director of CCHS' Behavioral Health Division, which includes mental health, alcohol and other drugs and homeless services.

"Not being able to get treatment for physical health care needs can make a person's behavioral health issues worse and vice versa. Just caring for pieces won't fully heal a person- the idea is to provide complete care for the whole person," Belon said.

This integration has made a big difference for Tim Tarman, a 50-year-old Walnut Creek resident who suffered two strokes three years ago. The self-described Type A personality who worked for a large corporation had his life turned upside down.

"In my mind, my life was not supposed to be like this. Getting up in the morning, tying my shoes was a challenge. It was tough. I wasn't in a good place. I was depressed," Tarman said.

But thanks to his primary care physician at the new Concord Health Center Building 2, who suggested he consider talking to a therapist, he has learned techniques to help him cope with some of his physical limitations and his outlook has improved. He is able to see his physician, meet with his therapist and attend group support meetings all in the same place since starting his care there about two months ago soon after the center opened.

"Every single day I feel something that reminds me of my strokes, but it's about appreciating where you are today," Tarman said. "I have gotten the care I need and even more critical are the people here- this is a wonderful place. My strokes were life-changing but so is the care I have received here."

In addition to the Concord Health Center Building 2, which has nine exam rooms and is expected to serve more than 6,000 people annually, primary care also has been integrated at a nearby CCHS adult mental health clinic. The county plans to integrate behavioral and physical health at more sites over the next several months. Federal funding secured by the CCHS Public Health Division from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) helped make the integration possible.

Speakers at the CHC2 Open House will include Tim Tarman, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, and Drs. Walker and Farnitano.

For more information on CCHS services, visit

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  • Kate Fowlie, 925-250-2371