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August 31, 2022

SVSU business professor receives grant to improve mental health delivery

A Saginaw Valley State University professor is working to positively impact mental health care for patients by studying how addressing bottlenecks can help reduce wait times at mental health facilities. Danilo Sirias, a professor of management in SVSU’s Carmona College of Business, has been awarded a two-year, $245,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund for his project, which he will pursue in conjunction with two clinics that provide mental health services in the Great Lakes Bay Region, Child & Family Services of Saginaw and Family & Children’s Services of Mid-Michigan. 

“Access to mental and behavioral health services has become more constrained. Through this project, we intend to demonstrate how clinics can adjust their care delivery models to improve access,” Sirias said. “I’m grateful to the Michigan Health Endowment Fund for choosing my project. This type of funding makes it possible to pursue research projects that can benefit the wider community.”  

Sirias’s project involves the design, testing and implementation of a care delivery model. In addition, Sirias will use the experience gained to develop an online course that will be available – at no cost – to mental health professionals in Michigan.  

“Child and Family Service of Saginaw County is thrilled to participate in Dr. Sirias’s project aimed at providing direction beneficial to the effective and prompt delivery of mental health services,” said Jill Hogenson, the organization’s president/CEO. “Our agency’s 150-year history of responding and serving the needs of children, families and adults in  the Great Lakes Region positions us well to benefit by the changes that assist our reach and mission of ‘Building Better Lives’ within our community.”

In exploratory conversations with mental health care providers in the Great Lakes Bay Region, Sirias found that long waiting times to see a counselor are negatively impacting access to help. Sirias’s proposed innovative delivery care model consists of creating operational mechanisms, or “buffers,” to ensure that clinicians are able to devote ample time to the tasks that only they can do.  

The proposed care delivery model is based on Sirias’s research related to performance improvement in health care systems, which he has addressed in his book “Smash the Bottleneck: Fixing Patient Flow for Better Care (and a Better Bottom Line),” which he co-authored with Christopher Strear.  

Sirias’s care delivery model provides a structure that enables clinics to operate efficiently. SVSU will provide training and coaching to behavioral health clinic staff so they can effectively apply the model. SVSU will share success stories with other clinics so they can also implement the model. 

Sirias joined the SVSU management faculty in 2001. He holds a Ph.D. in business administration and a master’s in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Memphis, as well as a bachelor’s in industrial engineering from the National University of Engineering in his home country of Nicaragua. Sirias has published peer-reviewed research in several journals and is the author of the books “Bridging the Boomer Xer Gap,” (with Hank Karp and Connie Fuller), “Success . . . an Adventure” and “Problem Solving Maps.” His strategies for teaching math are used in several countries around the world. 

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents and reduce the cost of health care, with a special focus on children and seniors. More information can be found at mihealthfund.org

SVSU is one of 18 organizations that have received behavioral health grants from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund in 2022.