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Breaking Down Barriers to Behavioral Healthcare

Updated: May 4, 2021

North Olympic Healthcare Network (NOHN) is living out their vision statement, “A healthy, thriving and inclusive community supported and sustained by effective collaboration and leadership”, by integrating behavioral health services into their work. The healthcare system is often fragmented and siloed, with barriers and gaps between the different fields of care. NOHN is creatively and collaboratively bridging those gaps with their team of primary care, behavioral health and dental providers.

NOHN’s multidisciplinary behavioral health team has providers representing the fields of psychology, social work, counseling, and care coordination. Behavioral Health Manager, Kristine Johnson, PhD, shared that the team provides “short-term, problem focused counseling services to patients in the primary care setting.” The team works with patients to identify and address any barriers to behavioral healthcare.

Kristine Johnson, PhD

NOHN uses a similar collaborative approach to

reach Clallam County’s youth by offering counseling services to the Port Angeles School District (PASD). The district’s family navigator works throughout the district to identify students with mental health needs and help them access community services. The family navigator communicates directly with a scheduler at NOHN to fast track student engagement. “Students are often able to get started the week they are identified,” says Johnson.

Additionally, NOHN expanded to include psychiatry services in the last year to further meet the county’s behavioral health needs. NOHN has two psychiatrists on site and a third provides telehealth remotely. This range of care modalities enables NOHN to effectively connect their patients with behavioral health services.

Through a spirit of trust and support, NOHN is meeting people where they are to connect them with care in a way that is comfortable and effective. The behavioral health team works to “demystify counseling,” reduce stigma, and improve outcomes. Johnson shared, “The science tells us that many patients do not follow through on referrals from primary care to specialty mental health services. We are offering an ‘in-house,’ evidence-based, effective intervention for many common problems, while also using our time with patients to build their trust in mental health services and increase the likelihood that for those that need it, they will follow through on recommendations for more specialized care.

When asked which part of this project resonates most with her, Johnson shared,

“Making high quality whole-person care available for anyone in the community. Our integrated model makes it easy for us to interact with primary care and psychiatry and counseling and care coordination, all within one setting and one team and one EHR to really work together to provide the best care for our patients.”

Looking to the future, NOHN hopes to expand child and family behavioral health services to address the shortage of youth services and engage the full community. Olympic Community of Health is inspired by the collaboration and creativity NOHN embodies as they support the health of Clallam County community members.


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Olympic Community of Health (OCH) prioritizes community health needs by encouraging innovative collaboration across the Olympic region.

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