Public healthcare system NYC Health + Hospitals is set to launch and integrate a tele-behavioural health service into its virtual urgent care platform with a grant of $3.9m from US-based Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The three-year grant will support the hospital system to launch the health service into its platform ExpressCare.

It will also enable testing of four different strategies to engage patients at high risk in behavioural healthcare.

The contribution will also enable NYC Health + Hospitals to work with NYC Department of Homeless Services for a customised version of the tele-behavioural care service.

This service is intended to support homeless New Yorkers.

Furthermore, the grant will help the hospital to offer round-the-clock care for patients with psychiatric conditions and victims of substance abuse.

As part of the grant, NYC Health + Hospitals will initially develop a version of the behavioural health service to treat patients at 25 shelters and six mobile street outreach clinics.

In the second year, the healthcare system will enhance the use of its ExpressCare platform. It will also focus on patients with poor access to healthcare by studying four behavioural health engagement strategies.

The grant is aimed at reducing the number of patients in emergency department by providing timely consultations and medications. 

It seeks to expand the reach of ExpressCare to include more services to give homeless people access to behavioural care.

Helmsley New York City Program officer Tracy Perrizo said: “Helmsley’s New York City Program is dedicated to increasing health stability and improving outcomes for New Yorkers with high needs.

“The expansion of ExpressCare to include on-demand urgent behavioural healthcare will reduce avoidable, costly trips to the emergency room and go a long way in improving preventive healthcare for this vulnerable population.

“We appreciate the vision and partnership of NYC Health + Hospitals and look forward to expanding behavioural health services for this important patient population.”

NYC Health + Hospitals’ virtual urgent care programme was introduced in 2020 in partnership with Helmsley-funded NYC Collaborative for Homeless Healthcare.

So far, the ExpressCare platform has catered to the needs of over 75,000 New Yorkers.