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Part 1: Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers Training

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (Mass League) is the Primary Care Association for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and community health centers (CHCs) in Massachusetts, with a mission to promote population health equity for all through leadership and programs supporting community health centers and members to achieve their goals of accessible, quality, comprehensive, and community-responsive healthcare.

Over the last 1.5 years, Mass League has partnered with the UMass Chan Center for Integrated Primary Care (CIPC) to provide three different training sessions to health center teams. These trainings have been received well and have helped to increase the skills and knowledge of CHC providers.

The first training provided by the CIPC was on Interpreting and Responding to Depression Screening Results. The attendees learned several skills, including how to interpret different PHQ-9 profiles as they relate to screening and diagnosing psychiatric disorders, use the PHQ-9 for monitoring patients’ response to depression treatment, prescribe antidepressants for first episode depressive disorders, manage psychiatric medications for patients who do not respond to first-line treatment for depression, and employ shared decision-making to connect patients with depressive symptoms with appropriate behavioral health treatment and/or psychiatric medications.

The second training was on depression treatment in primary care. The session covered a variety of topics, including when to screen, administration protocol, and how to discuss medication adherence with patients.

The third training focused on telehealth. Attendees learned to understand emerging evidence and best practices for telehealth practice, describe common barriers and complications associated with telehealth, and implement patient-centered strategies to reduce barriers to telehealth engagement.

These training sessions stand apart from other available online and virtual training resources because they are scenario and case-based, allowing healthcare providers to apply the skills they learned to real-life situations. This approach ensured that the training was practical and effective in improving the quality of care delivered by CHCs.

CHCs are part of the safety net health care system and serve a diverse patient population. The training provided by the CIPC included language interpretation and other cultural considerations. CHCs also have an interprofessional workforce committed to team-based care and engage staff at all levels. NPs and MAs are a crucial part of the solution to improve mental health in the FQHC setting, and the training provided by the CIPC has helped to enhance their skills in this area.

One unique aspect of the CIPC’s work is that the content is developed by practicing clinicians. This means that the training is grounded in clinical experience and co-developed by a diverse team, ensuring that the training is relevant and up-to-date.

The partnership between Mass League and the CIPC has helped to enhance the skills of healthcare providers in CHCs across Massachusetts and is an excellent example of how organizations can work together to improve the quality of healthcare delivered to underserved populations.