ZSFG Foundation’s Funding focuses on Mental & Behavioral Health in 2021 Says Lifetime Director Pam Baer
(Photo : ZSFG Foundation’s Funding focuses on Mental & Behavioral Health in 2021 Says Lifetime Director Pam Baer)

As the largest primary care facility and the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the city, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG) is also the largest psychiatric acute hospital in the Bay Area. ZSFG remains the only 24-hour hospital offering Psychiatric Emergency Services in San Francisco. 

On average, they provide services to more than 8,000 patients a year experiencing a psychiatric emergency. Out of these patients, more than 60% are experiencing homelessness or marginal housing. In addition, those with comorbidity or a dual diagnosis like substance abuse will often face barriers to accessing healthcare. However, the resources necessary to serve the public hasn't always been easy to come by, especially for publicly funded institutions. 

Like so many hospitals in the nation, the gaps in the mental health care system is largely due to underfunding of the psychiatric emergency services and inpatient psychiatry. To address this need, the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation (SFGHF) stepped in to raise funds to create long-term solutions. In 2018, the Foundation established the Transform Mental & Behavioral Health Fund (TMBHF).

TMBHF will expand data-driven, multi-disciplinary, and holistic care for inpatients with mental health and behavioral needs. Funding will allow for dedicated patient navigation and social service delivery for patients experiencing mental illness. Today, as Covid-19 and the pandemic amplified Bay Area communities' need for mental health care, there is even more critical need to address barriers to accessible, equitable, and culturally-affirming health care services. 

The TMBHF funding will focus on direct services to address the immediate mental and behavioral health needs of ZSFG patients, particularly those from the most vulnerable populations and those experiencing hardships due to COVID-19. TMBHF will be dedicated to 3 areas: hiring frontline staff, training & education, and data acquisition to evaluate and analyze the program in 2022. 

Hiring & Resourcing Frontline Staff

This initiative raised more than $5 million by the SFGHF, and this 2-phase pilot program began on September 15, 2019. The first goal focused on obtaining direct service providers to address immediate mental and behavioral health needs while identifying blind spots and gaps in service. The hiring and recruitment of frontline staff, such as community health workers, patient navigators, and social workers, patient care coordinators, and other roles will help to reduce inequities in mental health and substance use care. The interdisciplinary and inter-departmental team will collectively work together using multi-disciplinary models of care to create patient-centered treatment plans.

Training & Professional Development

By providing staff with training and educational opportunities, these programs will address barriers and disparities found in healthcare. Some examples of professional development training offered include relationship-centered communication to identify racial disparities to build a more inclusive work culture. Formal partnerships will take place with the Bridge Clinic as well as Sister Web and Homeless Prenatal Program to develop and implement curriculum and training. 

Program objectives include increasing engagement with primary medical care providers, facilitating connections with mental health and substance use services, and increasing linkages to social resources. Trauma-informed, equitable, and anti-racist mental health and substance use treatment will address obstacles, such as mistrust, stigma, and fragmentation of services that are often found in the healthcare system. This interdisciplinary approach to mental and behavioral health can help improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable members of the community.

Data Acquisition & Evaluation

The third phase of the project is collecting and analyzing program data. The information and data collected will identify and analyze the efficacy of the program. By hiring a data analyst and an evaluation manager, the team will create a multi-year plan to identify gaps in the program to improve health outcomes for patients. Together with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the University of California San Francisco, analysts will determine the best practices for addressing data challenges and reinvent outdated approaches to care delivery for the next phase of the program.

Mission of the SFGH Foundation

Established in 1991 and incorporated in 1993, the SFGHF is an independent, nonprofit organization created by a small group of local community leaders and health care providers. Philanthropic funds are raised through individual contributions, event fundraisers, and corporate donations. Since its establishment, the Foundation has raised over $220 million in support for the ZSFG to ensure that all of its patients receive the care and comfort they deserve, regardless of their background. 

Pam Baer, a member of the Board and its first Lifetime Director describes how the Foundation and the Board members are passionate and dedicated about supporting the needs of the hospital, especially during the pandemic. Their fundraising efforts make it possible to maintain and create many cutting-edge programs and continue research to ensure. The General remains one of the finest hospitals in the nation.

"The Foundation meets regularly to propose new funding and plan events to help support the hospital to serve the low-income, the uninsured, immigrants, the homeless population, communities of color, and other vulnerable populations of the Bay Area. In particular, during this pandemic year we have been deeply engaged in work related to the social determinants of these inequities from housing to food in addition to supporting excellence in patient care and innovative new models of care to keep the Bay Area healthy." Baer said.

Our vision for the Transform Mental and Behavioral Health Fund is to provide San Francisco General Hospital with the targeted finances and resources to continue to deliver exceptional healthcare and programs to those suffering from addiction, homelessness, those in need of emergency psychiatric care and any other people who are living with the after effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic."