An accountable care organization (ACO) meeting about how to help vulnerable populations in healthcare

ACOs: How to Help Vulnerable Populations in Behavioral Healthcare

As a behavioral healthcare leader, you know how important it is to assess the functional status of the people you serve. The way they operate physically, emotionally, and cognitively is extremely important when you are trying to learn how to help vulnerable populations with mental health challenges.

With that being said, when managing Medicare and Medicaid persons served that fall under the behavioral healthcare umbrella, you must prepare yourself to support their needs through the types of clinical programs you deploy – all while trying to be as cost-effective as possible.

In this article, you will learn 7 important tips on how to properly manage your organization to positively impact vulnerable populations with mental illness. To begin, let’s take a look at the role of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and how they can help you achieve your goals.

What is the Role of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO)?

Meeting of an accountable care organization (ACO)

First and foremost, ACOs are organizations that aim to reduce the cost of care and avoid medical errors for vulnerable populations.

Furthermore, the goal of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) is to coordinate between hospitals and health care providers to provide quality care to persons served involved in the Medicare program and those with chronic conditions. At the same time, they strive to prevent any unnecessary duplication of services that will raise costs for the provider and the persons served.

ACOs and Mental Illness – Persons Served

As mentioned above, ACOs attempt to save money by encouraging providers to deliver high-quality care to the people they serve without repeating services or giving unnecessary treatments, as this can quickly become expensive. In fact, ACOs give incentives such as bonuses to providers that keep costs down for the people they serve and focus on disease prevention.

However, many people think these bonuses just apply to providers that treat high risk diseases like chronic illnesses. But, that’s not the case!

Here’s the great news: This cost-effective incentive is true for most healthcare fields. As a matter of fact, the same standards apply to behavioral healthcare clinics!

Keep reading to learn how you can help vulnerable populations save money and receive top-notch care through the proper management of your facility.

7 Tips on How to Help Vulnerable Populations in Healthcare

In this section, you will receive top tips on how to manage vulnerable populations in behavioral healthcare. Be sure to take notes so you can elevate your clinic with ease!

1. Understand Their Needs

When it comes to ACOs, the goal is to ensure quality care for as little cost as possible. Yes, we know we’ve said this over and over, but it’s a really important message to grasp!

So, how can you achieve this goal?

For starters, you need to understand the needs of the people you serve, inside and out.

Get to the Bottom of Their Health Concerns

When it comes to vulnerable populations in healthcare, they desperately want to find help and quick relief. At the same time, they don’t want to jump through hoops to get it.

Here’s the problem: Too often are persons served cycled through different medical facilities and given treatments that don’t actually meet their needs. Not only does this cost a pretty penny, but it also makes the persons served lose hope.

Don’t let this happen to the people you serve! Instead, create a comprehensive protocol that evaluates the needs of the people you serve and evaluates what services they should actually receive. Be sure to incorporate this mission into your behavioral health marketing strategy as well!

This leads us to our next point…

2. Match Needs to Services

Side view portrait of mature man consulting masculine woman in therapy session, copy space

Once you have defined the needs of the people you serve, you should develop a personalized plan that focuses on the exact type of care that individual requires.

Remember, a one-size-fits-all approach does NOT cut it, especially in the field of behavioral healthcare. You can’t take shortcuts to health! If state-of-the-art care is written in your mission statement, then each person served must be treated as an individual.

Why You Should Avoid a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

You might be wondering, “But, don’t customized plans cost more money and take more time?”

In the beginning, they might seem to be more costly and time-consuming. However, when a person is treated properly and matched to the right services from the start, they have a higher chance of healing and are less likely to circulate back into the system.

And as we mentioned before, ACOs often offer bonuses to clinics that promote cost-effective practices and optimal treatment plans that serve to prevent disease.

At the end of the day, you actually save time and money. It’s a win-win situation!

3. Partner with Other Community Resources

Another way you can help vulnerable populations with mental illness is to partner with your community.

Never underestimate the power of the people around you! The stronger your community network is, the more leverage you have to fight for the rights of people that are in desperate need of behavioral healthcare!

Simply reach out to like-minded people, businesses, and non-profit organizations in your town or city and ask if they would like to connect with your clinic. You never know what kind of help they will provide your team.

4. Create Safe Transitions

Behavioral Health Plan

Next, it is vital to include easy-to-follow steps in your treatment plan and services. We call these ‘safe transitions.’

As you know, the path to good mental health is often full of winding curves. This can be unsettling and even scary for vulnerable persons served with mental illness to face. After all, uncertainty of future procedures easily leads to anxiety and depression!

To make the road to recovery straight for the people you serve, incorporate safe transitions for them to follow from one service to the next. Think of it like a 1, 2, 3 plan that is meant to give guidance and ease the mind of the people you serve.

Just remember, the less convoluted the plan is, the better!

5. Offer Alternative Payment Models

Here’s a fact: Vulnerable populations with mental illness usually face many barriers to mental health treatment. These include:

  • Financial dilemmas
  • Fragmented care
  • Low-quality treatment
  • Poor access to community resources

Oftentimes, these barriers make potential persons served turn away from the help they need because they either don’t trust the system or they don’t have the option to pay for proper treatment.

How to Help Vulnerable Populations Overcome Barriers to Care

You can alleviate these pain points by offering alternative payment options for vulnerable populations. For instance, you can accept Medicaid-managed care plans that unlock access to a larger percentage of the vulnerable population to receive quality treatment at your facility.

Combine this with a well-structured and financially managed clinic, and you will see persons served willingly put their faith in your organization.

6. Work with Primary Care Physicians

Physician conducting a mental health screening on a patient

If you work hand-in-hand with a team of doctors, then this next tip is for you.

Encourage primary care physicians to screen for mental health. This goes for both children and adults that pass through your clinic. The sooner you can catch the signs of mental illness and evaluate exactly what you need to treat, the faster you can offer relief to the people you serve.

This saves everyone time and money and also reduces the stress that comes along with the lack of a sound diagnosis.

7. Schedule a Follow-Up

Scheduling a follow up mental health appointment

Last but not least, never leave the people you serve hanging after an appointment.

When you schedule a follow-up right away, the person served feels seen and has a higher chance of coming back to receive the routine care they need.

This is particularly important for people that fall under the vulnerable population category. Too often they have been ignored or turned away. Don’t let them fall through the cracks. Schedule a follow-up appointment and show them that you are there for them.

Future Considerations

  • Improve Access to Care: Your biggest priority should be to improve access to quality healthcare, especially for those who suffer from mental illness. Provide alternate payment methods to reach vulnerable populations.
  • Make it Easier to Connect with Telehealth: Connect with kids through telehealth to make the experience less confronting.
  • Redistribute Resources Virtually: Reach vulnerable populations with mental illness who do not have the ability to come into your clinic regularly or to those who live in rural areas.

Advance Your Healthcare Facility With C4 Consulting

Now that you know how to help vulnerable populations who suffer from mental illness, you can better manage your organization to reach these persons served. Furthermore, you will be able to provide them with the quality care that they deserve.

Want to take your behavioral clinic to the next level? Contact C4 Consulting and receive expert industry guidance.

From finance and marketing to proper facility management, our experienced consultants are here to help. Send an email to to schedule your first consultation.