Centerstone Launches Simulation Training Institute to Professionalize Behavioral Health, Improve Patient Care

Centerstone has launched a new simulation training center for community-based behavioral health professionals, with the goal being to further professionalize the industry and better prepare clinicians for the job.

Currently, the not-for-profit behavioral health system is only deploying the program internally and on a contract basis, but it plans to roll out a larger commercialization effort later this year, according to Bre Banks, director of clinical education at the Centerstone Research Institute.

“When we think about the function of simulation education in behavioral health, not only is it a means to create competency in professionals …, but it’s also a patient safety issue,” Banks told Behavioral Health Business. “The goal is … for our clients to get the best care they possibly can.”

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Headquartered in Nashville, Centerstone is the largest community behavioral health provider in the country, with more than 170 locations and two full-scale addiction recovery centers across multiple states. Additionally, it has a research institute, a foundation and a number of specialized programs catered to unique groups and populations. 

Banks said the push for the new program, which is operated by the Centerstone Research Institute and called the Centerstone SIM Center, first started back around 2014, when the organization got a grant for the training of behavioral health clinicians. In researching ways to use that funding, Banks and her colleagues realized how subpar most behavioral health training options are — and that they fail to give clinicians hands-on practice.

Eventually, they stumbled across simulation education, which is considered the gold standard for training in high-risk, high-reward fields, such as aviation and medicine. However, it has yet to be frequently deployed in behavioral health settings — something Banks and her colleagues are working to change with Centerstone’s new training center.

“If that’s the gold standard for our peer field, why can’t it be the gold standard for behavioral health?” Banks said.

Currently, the Centerstone SIM Center is all virtual, but the organization plans to eventually expand into live simulation post-COVID. Meanwhile, the training courses themselves are highly customizable and can be catered specifically to clinicians of various skill levels to teach a variety of evidence-based practices.

Each individual training usually starts with a short instructional video that lasts about six minutes or less. From there, trainees are given quizzes and practice questions to assess their knowledge. Next, learners watch videos of clinicians working with simulated patients to demonstrate the skills in practice, with video tagging technology allowing them to indicate when they see the technique being deployed.

After that, trainees get hands-on practice experience.

“The learner will work with my team to schedule a session … with what we call a simulated patient,” Banks said. “This is a staff of folks that are trained as actors to play a case that we write, and the cases are incredibly in depth.”

From there, trainees connect with the patient for a zoom session, which is automatically recorded and uploaded to Centerstone’s platform. Banks and her team then review the recording to see how well clinicians put the skills in question into practice, then they debrief with trainees to provide feedback.

“Being able to know from a training perspective that clinicians … can do these skills is definitely an effort toward that standardization [of behavioral health care] and knowing that we are moving the needle toward deployment and implementation of evidence-based practices in a systematic way,” Banks said.

Although still in its early stages, the Centerstone SIM Center has made a measurable impact. Take its cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program for depression for example. The simulation training has helped learners increase their knowledge between 40% and 60%, according to pilot research that Banks shared with BHB. On top of that, the training has benefited clinicians’ confidence, leading to self-efficacy increases of between 70% and 80%.

So far, 65 Centerstone staff members have participated in training from the new center, which officially launched in the fall. The organization also just inked deals with the University of Tennessee and Indiana University, who plan to use the training for social work students. Plus, Centerstone has another contract in the works with the state of Tennessee’s higher education commission, according to Banks.

And that’s just the beginning, she said.

“We do have plans for this year to roll out a larger commercialization plan to create a virtual electronic, web-based front door, [so] if there are agencies or individual clinicians that would like to receive trainings in this way, they can access that through our website and request an initial consultation,” Banks said. “We can get a sense of what they’re looking for …, and then either offer them the trainings we currently have developed or if they have unique needs … we can build it for them.”

Those conversations will likely start in Q2, Banks said.

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