FORT WALTON BEACH — When a patient shows up at an emergency room during a mental health crisis, Bridgeway Center Clinical Officer Larry McFarland said the behavioral health center often never knows about it. 

“You see that especially with our substance-using individuals,” McFarland said. “It denies us that opportunity to reach out and try to engage someone, because clearly if either a loved one or themselves presented them to an ED (emergency department), at least they’re thinking about getting help.”

Bridgeway Center will join the Florida Health Information Exchange’s Encounter Notification Service (ENS) next month, and McFarland said the new alert system could help the behavioral health center reach out to some people who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

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The system has already been connecting several health care providers throughout the state with real-time notifications about their patients’ hospital encounters, but Florida HIE outreach specialist Ashely Wells said in a Tuesday video conference that they are starting to see more behavioral health organizations participating.