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Meeting the Mental Health Need

Author: Dan Gorenstein

Gorenstein, Dan. Meeting the Mental Health Need. 23 November 2021

1 additions to document , most recent over 2 years ago

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Nov-23-21 Meeting the Mental Health Need

In the midst of a pandemic and an economic recession, the U.S. is also facing a rising tide of mental distress. The number of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression has tripled since last year. Calls to crisis lines have skyrocketed, and overdoses are up, too.

Research shows many people with a mental illness won’t go on to get treated or even diagnosed. For those who do get treated, about half get help in primary care, where providers are short on both time and mental health expertise.

Most other patients see specialty providers, like psychologists and psychiatrists, which can be stigmatized and hard to find, especially for patients in rural areas and the safety net.

One way to increase access to mental health (as well as other behavioral health) expertise is to bring it into primary care practices, where patients are already going. This is an approach known as integration, and some versions of it have been around since the 1980s.

In a truly integrated primary care practice, behavioral health providers and primary care providers, who traditionally practice in silos, become part of a single team. They collaborate fully in a patient’s care, from writing notes in the same electronic health record to jointly developing care plans that meet all of the patient’s needs.

Integration can be defined and implemented in many different ways, which are often plotted along a continuum like this figure from the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions:

Robert (whose last name we are omitting for privacy) is a patient at Cherokee Health Systems, a safety-net provider that runs 24 integrated primary care clinics in eastern Tennessee. He started going to Cherokee 12 years ago for medical care, but once he revealed his struggles with depression, he started receiving mental health care, too.

Robert recalls being skeptical and slow to share at first, “A lot of stuff was eating at me [but] you gotta really want help first.” Now, he sees the benefits and has become a strong advocate for mental health care among his family and friends. Robert’s care team also helps manage his arthritis, diabetes and a new multiple sclerosis diagnosis, but it’s the mental health care he’s most grateful for.

“It means a lot. I’ve got somewhere to go and take my veil off, where I ain’t got to be macho,” says Robert, recalling the many times he’s cried on his provider Eboni’s shoulder. “She tells me what to do to get me feeling better and I can go on to the next episode.”

DMU Timestamp: November 22, 2021 17:11

Added November 23, 2021 at 11:12am by Bella Tartaro
Title: Meeting the Mental Health Need

Author: Dan Gorenstien

"Meeting the Mental Health Need" Solutions U®,

DMU Timestamp: November 22, 2021 17:11

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