As I embark upon this new journey of blogging about behavioral health integration, I admit to having mixed feelings. I am excited to explore and share information on reducing and, hopefully, eventually eliminating the health disparities among people who suffer from behavioral health disorders. However, I also find this undertaking to be somewhat daunting. But this mission is so much larger than any apprehension I might have over stepping into the blogosphere, so here we go!
The subject of behavioral health integration is gaining momentum in the behavioral health industry. The findings from the now infamous 2006 study published by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness has changed the way we view healthcare. The study revealed that people suffering from serious mental illnesses die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population. Obviously there’s something we haven’t been doing right. Thankfully, behavioral healthcare experts in the field are working diligently to correct this. The Behavioral Health Integration Blog will explore the advances in behavioral healthcare focused on eliminating the health disparities among people with behavioral health disorders.
Like most of you in the behavioral health industry, I was not really surprised to learn that people who suffer from behavioral health disorders typically do not get the health care that they require. If you work in the field long enough you will experience the loss of one (or most likely many) clients who has died prematurely from an illness that was treatable and preventable, such as stroke or heart attack. We often see this among people suffering from serious mental illnesses. This population frequently does not have primary care providers. For a myriad of reasons most do not follow up with healthcare needs outside of the behavioral health system. Through integrating primary care with behavioral health, providers are able to treat all of an individual’s healthcare needs; in essence, treating the whole person. Future blogs will explore various models that are being successfully used to provide total care.
In the weeks to come, I will provide links to the excellent resources that are available on behavioral health integration. All comments are welcome. Addressing this critical health disparity requires a collaborative effort.