What We DoHealth Care & Access Grantee Spotlight: Case to Care Management

Grantee Spotlight: Case to Care Management

Kyle Kessler, Executive Director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, Inc. (ACMHCK)

‘Whole Health’ Care: Helping Kansas Case Managers Better Attend to Patients’ Full Scope of Health Care Needs

Kyle Kessler is a veteran social services manager who in recent years has been working to address what experts recognize is a fundamental flaw in health care delivery.

The flaw is, namely, the sharp divide between behavioral health care and primary health care.

"We've had a very siloed health care system,” said Kessler, Executive Director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, Inc. (ACMHCK). “If we get integrated care — to where the physical and behavioral health components are working together — then we can treat the cause and get the symptoms to go away longer term.”

The problem has been that behavioral health care is often treated as if it does not affect physical health and vice versa, Kessler said.

Working to Bridge the Gap

So Kessler and others in Kansas have been working to bridge the gap, to help integrate health care services for the whole person.

The ACMHCK — which represents the state’s 26 community mental health centers — saw an opportunity to partner with the Sunflower Foundation to train case managers across the state as a first step toward integrating care.

This summer and fall, ACMHCK and experts from the National Council for Behavioral Health are providing 12 intensive training sessions around the state to help case managers become “care managers.” 

About 700 case managers are currently being trained, which Kessler said will represent the first footprint in care integration in Kansas’ community mental health centers.

Patricia Roach Smith is Chief Operating Officer at Bert Nash in Lawrence, which was one of the 12 training sites.

“The footprint that can be made by this type of statewide training that was underwritten by the Sunflower Foundation is an opportunity to have a consistent approach across the state — whether it's Norton or Neodesha or Leawood or Liberal — they've all had similar training and can apply it to their specific communities,” he said.

“You should see greater understanding and collaboration between health care professionals, to the point that we don't just talk about physical health or behavioral health or mental health — we'll just talk about health.”

Helping Case Managers be Care Managers

The Case Manager to Care Manager Training is coordinated by ACMHCK and funded by Sunflower Foundation.

The training sessions are led by experts from the The National Council for Behavioral Health, including Joan King, Senior Integration Consultant. She said the key to care integration is making health care delivery “everybody’s business.”

“The whole health wellness approach starts at the front door. The receptionist’s role is as important as the physician’s role in making people feel safe in receiving care and being actively involved in their care,” King said.

Suzanne Daub is Senior Integrated Health Consultant at The National Council for Behavioral Health.

“Some staff need to develop new skills for this whole health wellness approach to spread across an organization successfully, and Case Manager to Care Manager training equips staff with strategies to function in a collaborative and integrated environment,” she said.


Those who complete the training are able to:

  • Learn current healthcare trends impacting their role,
  • Understand the difference between physical and behavioral health culture,
  • Describe strategies to build strong partnerships with primary care providers,
  • List strategies to help prepare people for primary care appointments and to increase self-management,
  • Apply basic chronic care principles to managing heart disease and diabetes, and
  • Identify and apply strategies to help people change their health behavior.

For more information on Case Manager to Care Manager Training for staff members of Kansas community mental health centers, visit ACMHCK.org or contact Sheli Sweeney at ssweeney@acmhck.org.