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The Bedford Mental Health Collaborative: Strengthening Community Care through Synergy

Published on Tuesday May 14, 2024

By Stacey Vaught, MBA, MSN, BA, NEA-BC
President of Centra Bedford Memorial Hospital

The Bedford Mental Health Collaborative is an interdisciplinary community action group that BMH Leadership pulled together in response to our Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) data around lack of mental health and substance use resources in our community. The stated purpose of the group is “To bring together an interdisciplinary team to provide a safe and healthy community for residents experiencing mental health and substance use disorders.”

Bill Bass, BMH’s former president, myself and Mary Kirby, BMH’s Community Engagement Specialist came up with this idea in one of our CHNA implementation planning meetings. We were talking about the (perhaps perceived) lack of resources within our area, and the disconnect we sometimes felt with other community partners. Additionally, we pondered what other agencies were facing and what we could potentially accomplish if we got together to work on bettering our community.

With the first meeting held in November 2022, BMH was able to act as the convener, bringing as many to the table as possible to work together for the good of our community. The organizations actively involved has grown to include:

  • Town of Bedford Police Department
  • Bedford County Police Department
  • Bedford County Fire & Rescue
  • Bedford Emergency Management
  • Horizon Behavioral Health
  • Department of Social Services
  • Bedford Community Health Foundation
  • Free Clinic of Central Virginia
  • Virginia Department of Health
  • Bedford County Schools
  • Centra Medical Group – Bedford 
  • Centra Behavioral Health
  • Centra Emergency Department
  • Centra Community Engagement
  • Centra Administration

The monthly meetings are a robust conversation around what needs to be done in our community with following conversations around how we, as community leaders, can assist and support in that being accomplished. We have access to those that can support with grant funding on the committee which can then translate into meaningful actions when identified and needed.

Through this group we have been able to connect a variety of resources, sometimes not originally connected at all, to improve continuity of care for our community. One of the outcomes has been increased education and resources for our CMG-Bedford partners, who have been facing increasing numbers of primary care patients needing mental health resources, sometimes in near crisis mode when they present. We have also been able to be part of the ongoing work with our partners, including Horizon, to help spread the word about available community services.

As the collaborative has continued to meet, we have noticed more connectivity among all of the resources and organizations along with recognition and support of current work already in place. For instance, Bedford County Fire & Rescue has a program where they, along with social services, make home visits to high utilizers of their services, attempting to find the root cause of multiple calls, such as food insecurity, and address them. We are then able to connect them with our own Centra 

Community Paramedic Group as well as other community members that can aid with food, housing or transportation. Information sharing has been a huge piece of this meeting, which we, along with many communities tend to struggle with.

Lastly, I believe that this is a pivotal meeting aligns with Centra’s strategic priority of Community Health & Value-Based Care as we seek to align care, provide resources and make connections with already available resources for the advancement of health in our community.