The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded $2.5 million to the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, John Snow, Inc., and the Center for Care Innovations to launch The Delta Center for a Thriving Safety Net (Delta Center); a national collaborative that aims to inspire innovation and change in value-based care and payment, through both policy and practice. The Delta Center will provide technical assistance to primary care and behavioral health state associations across the United States to build a stronger safety-net.

The Delta Center is the first national center to focus exclusively on transforming payment and care for ambulatory primary care and behavioral health services. The Delta Center will: 1) build capacity within existing state associations to support their provider members and local partners--fostering broad and sustained reach; 2) synthesize and disseminate lessons from local, state, and national experiences to inform policy and practice at all levels; and 3) advance creative collaboration between primary care and behavioral health. This multi-pronged approach will build the knowledge, resources, and relationships of state and national organizations to shape and respond to policy change and opportunities in the safety net.

Community health centers, which serve over 27 million people, and community behavioral health providers, which serve over 10 million people, are facing increasing pressure to move towards models of care and payment that reward value over volume. Safety-net primary care and behavioral health providers are key sectors for a reformed delivery system yet often lack the technical and change management capacity to implement and sustain change. Participation in population-based payment arrangements in the safety net is still nascent—many providers face challenges in building the necessary infrastructure and navigating an evolving payment environment.

“We at MacColl are thrilled to build on decades of work in the safety net to provide technical assistance and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for state primary care associations and [state behavioral health associations] as they develop their capacity to best support doctors, care teams, and patients,” says MacColl research associate Katie Coleman, MSPH, MacColl Principal Investigator for the Delta Center.

“With new value-based payment arrangements and higher expectations for clinical quality and patient-centered care, we want to help health centers, behavioral health agencies, and those who support them do more than weather this new environment,” she adds. “We want them to thrive.” The Delta Center will operate nationally, convening this learning community three times a year in various locations across the country and remotely in-between.

“I'm proud to lead the MacColl Center's contribution to the design of this initiative and the provision of technical assistance related to improving quality of care for patients,” Coleman says. “By working closely with both primary care associations and behavioral health state associations, we'll build on our Center's long history of strengthening team-based, whole-person care across the continuum.”