At bi3, we are fortunate to work every day with partners committed to health innovation. Each month, we share their stories and the positive impact they make.
Debbie Gingrich: Building Innovative Partnerships
Debbie Gingrich is Vice President of Behavioral Health at The Children’s Home. Her work focuses on serving vulnerable children and improving their lives. In her role, Debbie is leading the creation of the Mental Health Crisis Care Collaborative (MHC3), which is a partnership of community-based mental health organizations including St. Joseph Orphanage and Beech Acres Parenting Center. Fueled by a bi3 grant, the MHC3 is testing a pilot to effectively connect families to pediatric mental health care following a crisis.
What led you to your current role?
I studied psychology and sociology behavioral health at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Even then, I was interested in how psychological services interfaced with our health systems. I went on to Cincinnati Children’s as a research assistant, where I was in direct contact with girls who had been abused. That was when I really took notice of how decisions were made as well as the way systems and processes were set up, and how these things ultimately impacted the children we were trying to help. I went back to school to gain my masters and more experience in social services. It was when I came back to Cincinnati and found the Children’s Home that I found a culture where I could pursue my passion of making systems work for the children we serve.
What continues to drive your passion?
Kids and families are struggling in our community. If there are ways to help them, I want to do that. Along with the team at Children’s Home, we are always learning and trying new things. Every idea is valued, whether pursued or not, but all the contributions make such a difference. Mental health is more important now than ever, and I am dedicated to making sure we are working to serve our community with the best care possible to help children and their families live happier and productive lives.
What does innovation mean to you?
To me, innovation means trying something new. It does not always mean developing a brand-new approach; rather, it could be applying something we are already doing in a different way.
We are seeing a behavioral health crisis in our community. We are seeing more kids come to the emergency department in crisis, but our hospitals do not have enough beds available. This is a systems-level issue, and we need innovative solutions. In the case of MHC3, we are innovating through collaboration. We are working to bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient services, bringing often siloed programs together so that we can immediately address and provide the care these kids need. We’ve embedded a shared intake specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to support the connection of families being discharged from inpatient care with minimal handoffs between organizations. We’ve created one single connection – an intake hotline – to streamline the referral process. As a result of the MHC3 pilot project, there was an increase in the number of children connected to outpatient services after hospitalization (up from 42% to 89%). Additionally, the number of days from referral to first service decreased significantly (down from 25.5 to 8).
How has the Coronavirus quarantine utilized innovation?
The quarantine affected our work in a variety of ways. Across the board, we were not able to deliver as many services to area kids and families. While we did see a decline in abuse reporting, we know this is largely because no one is around to see it.
Like many providers, we needed to think outside the box to reach families. These efforts included ramping up our telehealth platform and looking at new ways to reach people where they are at—like food pantries.
Conversely in some ways, we ended up reaching more people, more consistently, than before, as providing added telehealth services removed barriers. Parents could attend virtual parenting classes without worrying about childcare or transportation. We are able to reach more families in rural areas, and we are able to make immediate adjustments to a child’s medication virtually without wait time.
What has been your experience working with bi3?
Working with bi3 really is a unique experience, unlike any other funder. bi3 is a partner and not just along for the journey. They see the bigger landscape of care, ask needed questions, and provide tangible and useful feedback. The bi3 team conceptualizes problems and solutions, adding so much value beyond the funding dollars.
For information about the Mental Health Crisis Care Collaborative (MHC3), fueled by bi3, click here.