MFRI partners with Hamilton Center to promote high standards of care for military families

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University has reached a milestone in its goal of promoting high-quality care for veterans, current service members and their families. Hamilton Center in Terre Haute has become the first three-star center in MFRI’s new Star Behavioral Health Providers designation system for organizations.

The classification system is an expansion of the existing SBHP rating available for individual providers. The SBHP system for organizations and health centers was crafted in partnership with the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction. It is designed to promote consistent standards of care for all military-connected individuals seeking services from community mental health centers.

“Hamilton Center’s efforts to progress in our designation program are truly remarkable,” said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, MFRI director. “Their enthusiasm indicates a potential for similar growth and accommodation for service members, veterans and military families at all of Indiana’s community mental health centers.”

In a statement, the Indiana DMHA said: “Hamilton Community Mental Health Center has been a terrific leader in providing quality behavioral health services to veterans and active military by encouraging their staff to become certified Star Behavioral Health Program Providers. They have recently achieved their third-tier star designation, and the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction is very grateful to Hamilton Center for prioritizing providing quality services to military individuals in their community.”

Through SBHP – a collaborative, multistate effort that includes the state of Indiana, the National Guard Bureau and the Center for Deployment Psychology – MFRI provides clinical education programs that prepare behavioral health professionals for dealing more knowledgeably with military-connected populations.

“For more than 10 years now, SBHP has provided specialized training for understanding and treating military service members and their families,” said Julie Williams, the MFRI program manager who coordinates SBHP. “We already offer a registry of providers who have undergone our training, and now with the center designation system, we can offer a directory of entire organizations committed to the competencies that we teach.”

To progress through the new four-star system, an organization must meet a progressively demanding set of standards that include military-focused resources, outreach programs, competency training in military culture and continuing clinical education in evidence-based practices with a track record of improving mental health outcomes in military families.

“In working with DMHA, we agreed that each of the four tiers should not only be attainable for Indiana’s community mental health centers, but also help ensure a meaningful, high-quality standard of care,” said Kathy Broniarczyk, senior director of outreach and operations at MFRI.

Hamilton Center had applied in early 2021 for a one-star designation.

“But as soon as they received their first star, administrators quickly returned to apply for” additional designation, quickly achieving their second star before moving on within the month to tier three, Williams said.

To advance from the second to third tier, or star, Hamilton Center staff boosted the visibility of its veterans’ support practices, initiated the process for becoming a TRICARE provider that accepts U.S. Department of Defense health insurance and increased its participation in public events designed to support regional military communities.

“The Hamilton Center began its Military Veteran Program just over five years ago, and we continuously strive to increase competency in treating our military and veteran population,” said Meghan Creech, Hamilton Center’s executive director for adult services, about the value of the SBHP designation to their operations. “Hamilton Center is committed to providing health care services to military-connected individuals throughout West Central Indiana.”

“The star designation process has assisted our corporation in creating policies and procedures informed by an understanding of military culture and provides an assurance that clinicians have training in military culture and evidence-based practices. We have had the opportunity to work closely with Star Behavioral Health Providers and look forward to our future endeavors together.”

The goal of the new center designation system is to help improve mental health indicators for military-connected families across the state. Although it may be several years before measurable clinical outcomes are available, MacDermid Wadsworth said she is encouraged by Hamilton Center’s enthusiasm for a centerwide commitment toward this objective.

“We are excited to see more community mental health centers partner with us in the future to help improve quality of life for service members, veterans and their families in Indiana,” she said.