Integrated Healthcare Offers Solution to Inadequate Behavioral Health Services

Behavioral health advocacy groups are expressing concern over recent media attention about people who may or may not be suffering from mental illness.

And they should be.

The horrendous acts committed in the recent past in Connecticut, Oregon, Colorado, etc. are tragic acts of violence. However, make no mistake that these atrocities are NOT synonymous with mental illness.

The fear of advocacy groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, A New PATH, and Mental Health America, is that the association between behavioral health and these violent acts will result in increased stigma. These and other groups have worked diligently for many years to reduce/eliminate the negative stereotypes associated with mental illness and substance use disorders.

However, the grain of truth to be derived is that behavioral health services need to be more accessible. Ongoing cuts to behavioral health budgets by states over the past few years have resulted in inadequate coverage (click here for NAMI’s chart: State Mental Health Budgets FY2009-FY2012).

Community Behavioral Health Safety Net

Community behavioral health providers are mandated to serve more people with funding that is steadily decreasing and with no hope in sight. The safety net is nearly frayed beyond repair.

Health Reform has spawned a wide array of innovative approaches to healthcare delivery. The integration of behavioral health and primary care is one such alternative that holds great promise for mental health and substance use services.

When primary care providers integrate behavioral health services, there is a dramatic increase in access to services. When behavioral health is included in routine screenings, the stigma of seeking behavioral health services is removed and opportunity for early detection is dramatically increased. Depression, anxiety, and substance use screenings are normalized through inclusion with height, weight, and blood pressure.

Research shows that depression impacts such chronic health conditions as heart disease. Concurrent treatment of behavioral health and physical health conditions results in improved health outcomes. In addition, integrated behavioral health and primary care services results in reduced healthcare costs.

Integrating behavioral health and primary care is a win-win for patients and providers.

Healthcare providers across the US and in many other countries are integrating services in order to improve service delivery. As individuals, we can do our part by reporting both behavioral health and physical health symptoms to our healthcare providers. Remember, healthcare is a partnership. You are a vital member of your healthcare team.

Advertisements

A Tragedy in Connecticut: We Are In This Together

We at Behavioral Health Integration Consulting are devastated by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our hearts go out to the families, friends, coworkers of the innocent lives that were senselessly lost. There is no solace, no answers for the innumerable questions. We honor the memories of the heroes who died so that others could live.

All across the US…and across the world…mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, grieve for the loss of the children they have never met. We share in your grief. Collectively we mourn…because we all recognize that this could easily have been our children, our friends, our coworkers lost. The atrocities happened to all of us. We are in this together.

We want to share Mahatma Gandhi’s “Prayer for Peace” as a small offering of condolence:

Prayer for Peace - Mahatma Gandhi

In addition, we pledge to work diligently with healthcare providers across the country to make behavioral health services more accessible for people in need. In lieu of funding limitations and ongoing cuts to state behavioral health services, the logical solution is to promote the integration of behavioral health and primary care services. Via healthcare reform and healthcare policy, we shall succeed in our mission.

Blessings to all of you from all of us at Behavioral Health Integration Consulting.