When you go to the doctor, you’re putting your trust and care in
the capable hands of highly-educated professionals that specialize in
making people better. However, many illnesses and healthcare issues can’t
be detected with blood work and X-rays. While we want to get better and
know why we’re suffering, many people overlook the role that mental
health plays in our overall physical condition. Behavioral health issues
can impact every part of our life and some impact our physical health.
According to the World Health Organization, people who suffer from mental
health issues die earlier than the average person. They die from untreated
and often preventable illnesses like obesity, high blood pressure and
diabetes, which are often accompanied by poor habits such as lack of exercise
and poor diet.
These days, primary care centers have become the gateway to the behavioral
health system, and primary care providers need support and resources to
screen and treat individuals with behavioral and general healthcare needs.
The answer? An integrated care healthcare model. The Jewish Family &
Children’s Service (JFCS) Michael R. Zent and Glendale Healthcare
Centers have offered primary and mental health care under one roof for
the last two years. By Integrating mental health, substance abuse, and
primary care services, JFCS produces the best outcomes and offers the
most effective approach to caring for people with multiple healthcare needs.
For individuals that are a part of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment
System (AHCCCS), integrated care means that the disabled, young, elderly,
poor or pregnant have the same access to quality care as individuals on
the most comprehensive health care plans. Financial access to care, transportation
and gaps in knowledge about how to properly care for themselves are no
longer a barrier to quality care. Combining primary and behavioral care
means a well-rounded approach to treating the whole person and in an efficient
manner, regardless of social or economic circumstances.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
- As many as 40 percent of all patients seen in primary care settings have
a mental illness
- 27 percent of Americans will suffer from a substance use disorder during
- 80 percent of patients with behavioral health concerns present in ED or
primary care clinics
- Approximately 67 percent of patients with behavioral health disorders do
not receive the care they need
- 68 percent of adults with mental disorders have chronic health disorders
and 29 percent of adults with chronic health disorders have a mental health disorder.
These statistics make a great case for why integrating primary and behavioral
health care is critical to creating and supporting healthy communities.
We should view healthcare as treating the whole person. In addition to
positive health outcomes, it’s also cost-effective care. Many people
may not have access to mental health care or may prefer to visit their
primary health care provider. Although most primary care providers can
treat mental disorders, particularly through medication, that may not
be enough for some patients. Historically, it has been difficult for a
primary care provider to offer effective, high-quality mental health care
when working alone. Combining mental health services/expertise with primary
care can increase patient satisfaction, reduce costs, increase the quality
of care, and, ultimately, save lives.
Dr. Lorrie Henderson is president and CEO of Jewish Family & Children’s Service.