This is Mental Illness Awareness Week and today has been designated as both World Mental Health Day and National Depression Screening Day. Social media has numerous posts this week promoting mental health awareness and related topics as we try to educate the general public. We strive for increased awareness of the importance of good mental health as well as the challenges related to the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Integrating mental health and substance use disorder treatment with primary healthcare provides the opportunity to both increase awareness and decrease the stigma associated with behavioral health issues. Integrated care helps to improve access, reduce costs, and improve outcomes. Integrated care is better care!
In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about mental illness.
Today, 10/10/13, is designated as World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is “Mental Health and Older Adults.” The day is celebrated at the initiative of the World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) supports this initiative through raising awareness on mental health issues using its strong relationships with the Ministries of Health and civil society organizations across the globe.
Today is also National Depression Screening Day. National Depression Screening Day raises awareness and screens people for depression and anxiety disorders. NDSD is the nation’s oldest voluntary, community-based screening program that gives access to a validated screening questionnaire and provides referral information for treatment. More than half a million people each year have been screened for depression since 1991.
Let us work together to promote good mental health locally and around the world.
“When you look at people holistically and start valuing their mind-body resiliency, I think there is a level of excitement, and better outcomes.”
September is Recovery Month. This year’s theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness. It is very fitting that Larry Fricks is our featured Integrated Care Thought Leader this month, as he is one of the nation’s greatest leaders in peer-led services, wellness, and recovery. An amazing individual who has devoted his life to helping others, Mr. Fricks was gracious enough to his insights into the importance of whole health wellness and resiliency and the vital role of engaging with people who have the lived-experience to provide support through the process. He offered insight into the role that a whole health approach plays in improving health outcomes and managing wellness. Drawing from his own experiences, Mr. Fricks identified many factors that contribute to a person’s recovery process. Acknowledging that factors such as race, socioeconomic status, and personal support system play a crucial role: “I don’t think you can underestimate what social determinants do to break somebody down.”
I first met Mr. Fricks in 2000 in Rockford, Illinois. He was the keynote speaker at the Consumer Family Forum, addressing a group who receive behavioral health services, their families, and behavioral health professionals from across the state. His passion resonated among the 300+ attendees as he shared his personal recovery story, urging others to believe that recovery is possible. I vividly recall (and have frequently shared with others) a very moving story that he shared about an initiative that has grown to be The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths: A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity, honoring the hundreds of thousands of people who died and were buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of psychiatric hospitals…and were forgotten:
Larry Fricks:Their graves were decimated and desecrated and they have no markers and people didn’t care about maintaining their graves. They walked the Earth and they had a life. Mothers, husbands and wives, children. They had wonderful things happen, and they saw miracles, and they had heartbreak, and you’re just honoring that experience. I just really believe that the Memorial is drawing people that I never expected to draw…very inspiring.
Through the years, Mr. Fricks has traveled from state to state, providing inspiration to so many, sharing his vision, and leading the way to transforming the way behavioral health organizations provide services. He led the national initiative to include peer-led services as a core feature, and is now working with states to embed Peer Support Specialists and Family Peer Specialists in integrated healthcare efforts as well. He currently divides his time between his work with the Appalachian Consulting Group based in Georgia, and his work in Washington, DC, as Deputy Director with the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions which has included testifying at Congressional Hearings on Mental Health.
Larry Fricks: We now know that things like a social network and service to others are huge health and resiliency factors. People who are in service to others tend to be healthier and they tend to live longer. Also they tend to be more resilient toward relapse or illness. So my life striving to be in service to others to strengthen their health and maybe strengthen their skills in recovery has had the benefit of strengthening my own recovery.
While his earlier work has focused on the role of Peer Support in the recovery process, Mr. Fricks’s work has broadened the focus to include a whole health approach. With startling reports that people with serious behavioral health conditions are dying decades earlier on average than the general population, he led a team at the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions to create a training called Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) that is designed to address this disparity though self-management supported by peers. Mr. Fricks has great praise for the effort in Georgia to develop Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers that are reducing hospitalizations.
Larry Fricks:Let me tell you about what excites me. Georgia has three of these Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers and they’re going to open two more. I’m very excited about what’s going on in those centers. Basically, if you feel early warning signs of your illness, or your addiction, you can go to one of these peer respite centers where you have your own bedroom and you can stay up to seven nights, chill out, and you’re surrounded by peers trained holistically to support your wellness. I think it’s really cutting the need for more intense crisis services and hospitalizations. So I had a chance to actually pull a shift in one of them, I answered the warm line and experienced what it was like to provide healing support by simply listening, or maybe just ask a few quetions for deeper reflection like we are trained to do. These peer support wellness centers are returning us to whole health. Removing some of the stigma, giving us a sense of owning our recovery and being proactive, and really engaging peer support to be successful. Georgia is leading the nation. With three we had more than any state, and with five we’ll really be out in front.
What’s next on the horizon?
Larry Fricks: I’m really excited about epigenetics. On April 2 of this year, Time magazine had a cover story on curing cancer, and this whole science on epigenetics basically says DNA does not have the last say. There are mind-body resiliency factors and there’s more and more research on epigenetics. “Epi” means over and the epi is the cell structure over your genome, over the DNA. And what they’re saying here is: Things that you do, like what you eat and managing stress to stay well, it determine which genes switch on and switch off. And so being aware of this thing, if you look at the WHAM training, we include ten health and resiliency factors which we got from Dr. Greg Fricchione who used to run Mrs. Carter’s Mental Health Program [at the Carter Center], and now he’s director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. These prevention doctors are big on something called the Relaxation Response, and so we’re looking at the things you can do to switch on and switch off gene markers; and they can impact the next generation.
And in parting:
I’m aware that there are just people and things that happen in your life that, if you’re open to it, you work on staying connected and having faith, your life can experience great meaning and purpose.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “We’re all bound in a mutual destiny and I’m not all I can be until you’re all you can be, and you’re not all you can be until I’m all I can be.” We should be about connection. We should be about cooperation, and there’s a spiritual power to that, and when you’re open to it, positive things just seem to happen. And you’re inspired by it.
Sometimes you want to shake your head and say, “Oh my gosh, why don’t I have more faith?”
“That’s the next direction that [organizations] need to go, bringing substance abuse back into the discussion. We need to go past just the integration of primary care and mental health care to a more Whole Person Care.”
It has been my pleasure to talk with Dr. Benjamin Druss for this edition of the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. Having had the privilege to work with Dr. Druss on various integrated care projects over the past few years, I have come to respect not only his keen insight into what’s needed beyond the horizon for the care of people with behavioral health disorders, but the compassion and dedication he brings. His humility and brilliance are evident upon introduction; he’s a true visionary. Dr. Druss, my mentor and my friend, has provided inspiration to me in my work and outlook on the world of healthcare, integration, and beyond.
Dr. Druss, Dr. Silke von Esenwein, and their colleagues at Emory University are currently conducting an exciting NIMH research trial, The Health Outcomes Management and Evaluation (HOME) Study. As described on the website clinicaltrials.gov: There is an urgent need to develop practical, sustainable approaches to improving medical care for persons treated in community mental health settings, this study will test a novel approach for improving mental health consumers based on a partnership model between a Community Mental Health Center and a Community Health Center. When this study is completed, it will provide a model for a medical home for persons with severe mental illness that is clinically robust, and organizationally and financially sustainable.
Dr. Druss received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1985, earned his medical degree from New York University in 1989 and later his master’s in public health from Yale University in 1995.He is also board certified in psychiatry. He trained as a resident in general internal medicine at Rhode Island Hospital and in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Click here for more information about Dr. Benjamin Druss
Advancement in integrated care through the years
Dr. Druss was one of the first to address the physical health concerns among people with serious mental illness and substance use disorders, particularly among the public sector populations in urban regions. During our discussion on integrated care, he addressed areas of change over the past 18 years that has had the greatest impact on the advancement of healthcare for people with serious mental illness. He described the world of Health Information Technology as a frontier that, over the past 10 years, has resulted in changing policies and procedures in healthcare. These changes have had significant impact on the ability for healthcare organizations to share information, resulting in improved care for patients.
Dr. Druss advises that the next stage needed for healthcare is to begin “broadly looking at other social determinants of health.” The focus should be on an approach to healthcare that is person-centered. The concept of addressing population health and creating a system of care will be a more effective approach to improving health outcomes moving forward. He recommends that substance abuse must be brought back into the discussion, and to go past just the concept of integration of physical health and mental health, toward a more “whole person care” approach.
What do you foresee for the field as we move forward?
Dr. Druss: Clearly there’s going to be major changes in how care is delivered. I think there’s a lot of opportunity moving forward with new public sector models, Medicaid, patients with medical homes, and also the promise of new technologies moving forward as well.
I’m very optimistic; I think things will certainly be very different five years from now. We’re in a period where things are evolving very quickly and we don’t know exactly what the world will look like, but I think we can say that things will look different—and that things will look better.
Research has to change as well. I’m mostly a researcher and lot of what we’ve been doing is slow-paced. The slow-paced process by which we develop a model, and then test it over a five year period. You apply for a grant and then you test it for five years, then it’s another two years before it’s published. So we’re going to have to be looking for more ways for understanding data and evaluating programs. I think the new technologies will help, their more wide-spread availability will help. Just as the health system needs to change—and is changing—health research is going to need to change as well.
The funding agencies still are gradually coming to that point. NIMH has a new program that they are looking to fund that looks at natural experiments out in the community. So I think that’s the sort of research that we’re going to need to see more of in the coming years—good, careful, thoughtful evaluations of some of the demonstration projects going on out in the community.
What barriers to integration to you currently see?
Dr. Druss: I’d say that a lot of community mental health centers are still on this part of the learning curve in terms of learning about integration, such as how potential partner organizations work, [such as] Federally Qualified Health Centers. [CMHC’s] often lack information technology infrastructure that makes it easier to do the work. There are some places, some community clinics, and other organizations that are out in front on these issues, that are early adopters, and there’s some that are trying to figure it out and hopefully will learn from the experience of those organizations that are further ahead.
Thank you, Dr. Druss, for your dedication to improving the health and quality of life of so many who live with serious behavioral health conditions.
Be sure to check back soon for our next Thought Leader, Larry Fricks, pioneer in the Peer Support movement.
A sampling of Dr. Druss’s cutting-edge research and other publications are listed below:
Co-Principal Investigator, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Funding Period 9/1/96-1/31/98
“Chronic Illness, Disability, and Managed Care”
Principal Investigator, National Association for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD); Funding period July 1, 1996 – June 30, 1998
“Work and Health Care Costs associated with Depression Compared with Chronic General Medical Illnesses”
Principal Investigator, Donaghue Medical Research Foundation; Funding period July 1, 1996-Decmeber 31, 1999
“Costs of Depression for an Employed Population”
Principal Investigator, NARSAD; Funding Period July 1999-June 2001
“Treatment of Depression and Medical Illness Under Managed Care: Understanding the Differences”
Principal Investigator, NIMH K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Award; Funding Period January 1999-December 2004
“Impact of Depressive Disorders in Health and Work Settings”
Principal Investigator, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Funding Period October 1, 2004-September 30, 2006
“Evidence-Based Management of Depression in Public-Sector Primary Care”
Principal Investigator: R34MH78583; Funding Period September 1, 2006-August 1, 2010
“Adapting a Medical Self-Management Program for a Community Mental Health Center”
Principal Investigator: K24MH075867; Funding period July 2006-June 2011
“Mending the Safety Net: Improving Linkages between CHCs and CMHCs”
Principal Investigator, AHRQ R18; Funding Period September 2008-September 2012
“An Electronic Personal Health Record for Mental Health Consumers”
Principal Investigator R21HS017649; Funding Period August 1st 2008-April 2010
“Mental Comorbidity and Chronic Illness in the National Medicaid System”
Principal Investigator, NIMH R01; Funding period August 2004-April 2014
“Improving Primary Care for Patients with Mental Disorders”
Principal Investigator NIMH MH090584-01A1; Funding Period 06/15/2011- 03/31/16
“A peer-led, medical disease self-management program for mental health consumers”
“It’s very hard to do integrated care and still think of mental health and physical health.”
Welcome to the first in the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. This series will focus on the forward-thinking individuals who have had the foresight to envision possibilities in the healthcare industry’s future. I’m pleased to begin the series with a man who has been instrumental in advancing integrated healthcare.
Alexander Blount, EdD, better known to most as “Sandy,” has played a very important role in bringing the integration of behavioral health and primary healthcare to its current prominent focus within the healthcare industry. Dr. Blount is credited with coining the term integrated primary care in his 1994 publication, “Toward a System of Integrated Primary Care,” Blount A, Bayona J. Family Systems Medicine, 1994;12:171-182.
It’s an honor to talk with Dr. Blount about the integration of behavioral health and primary care. Yes, he admits that he is optimistic about the direction in which the field is moving! His enthusiasm is almost palpable, with a freshness that belies the number of years he has devoted to the advancement of this revolutionary approach to healthcare. It’s apparent that this enthusiasm easily holds the attention of the students he teaches at UMASS.
Dr. Blount is a visionary whose diligent efforts and perseverance have made great strides toward bringing attention to the widespread failure to address the individual patient as a whole. He graciously agreed to provide insights for Behavioral Health Integration Blog:
What do you see as being the greatest barriers for successful integration of behavioral health and primary care services?
Dr. Blount: I see two things:
First are the barriers that have always been there: regulatory barriers that are built on the idea that mental health and medical services have to be kept separate, financial barriers that only pay fee for service and define services as what is delivered in specialty mental health, and cultural barriers on the part of both medical and mental health people that make working together difficult without some cultural broker who can make the connections and translations necessary. These have been our problems historically, and happily with the ACA and the PCMH movement, these are reducing.
The second area is the barriers caused by our own success. Because integrated care is becoming more possible and is proving itself, there is pressure to start programs in settings where there is little understanding of what it entails and little time and resources to prepare for the change. People are getting put into integrated programs or co-located, who aren’t trained for it and didn’t pick it. They don’t know what to do. They go in and do specialty mental health. They do what they’ve been trained to do…and it doesn’t work. Then administrators, who may have been skeptical initially, thought this was a fad, see this failure and think “oh yeah, I was right,” it was more inconvenient than useful. We felt we had to develop a training program at UMass Medical School available to these folks to prevent just this form of failure.
Also because there is sometimes a faddishness about integration, you get some administrators who become “true believers” who really don’t know how to do this. They see a presentation, and they say this is what we are going to do–and they start it without any depth of understanding. It’s sort of the administrative version of the clinician that doesn’t work. We need clinicians who are fully oriented to integrated primary care and leaders who are aware of the difficulties of making these changes and who can develop the buy-in from the whole practice. Integrated pilot programs are often funded on three year cycles. Places like the DIAMOND Project in Minnesota, where they’ve had some real time to make it work, say that it’s more like a five year cycle from beginning to fully transformed practice. I fear that federal and private funders will think it will happen faster than it does and will turn away.
Another barrier to our success is the workforce crisis we are facing. All of the government projections of what will be needed for behavioral health workforce, when compared to the number of people who are being trained, say we will have a terrible deficit, and those projections were made without any calculation of the workforce that has proved to be needed in mature integrated settings. When word gets out that we will need a four-fold increase over 2010 levels in behavioral health clinicians in Federally Qualified Health Centers alone, not to mention the rest of the health system, the true magnitude of the problem will become clearer.
What excites you about the field today?
Dr. Blount:One, is absolutely the transition in payment models that may make a great leap forward happen. Essentially those models let us implement the clinical routines of integrated care. Up to now the payment models have dictated routines that weren’t very integrated. Paying for health, rather than for services allows us to deliver evidence based care by the clinician best able to do it at the point that it is most sensible and acceptable to the patient. Having it actually knitted into the flow of care makes a big difference.
And the other thing that I see happening is a transformation in how we conceptualize mind and body, illness and health. It’s very hard to do integrated care and still think of “mental health” and “physical health”. The categories just begin to break down because they don’t describe the way people present. They don’t describe how problems form over the years. We’ve had science now for a good while on the plasticity of brain and the way that experience changes the brain and the brain changes experience. The current science even describes the way that experience changes what genes are expressed at various points in a person’s development. In other words, the science of the brain has been there but the way of thinking in our day-to-day clinical lives has not because we have been enacting models build on conceptions of separate domains. As we enact integrated clinical routines, we will begin to think differently. We create the likelihood that the science of the brain will be mirrored in the unity of our conceptions about people and how we try to help them.
So I think, at least in the places that are more developed, the places that integrated care gets to be mature, you begin to see different forms of conceptualization and hopefully we’ll be documenting those, writing about those, helping to pull others along. There aren’t many places where integrated care is really mature. The places that are mature are very different in numerous ways that don’t initially seem to be connected to integration. The question of “isn’t integration interesting, how do we work on it?” just goes away and the questions are about new ways of helping patients, new groups of patients we can understand better, and new ways of involving patients on their care teams. How we involve people in their own care, how we get past the doctor as leader and authority to doctor and the team as teachers and facilitators, that’s really the next piece. And when that is going well, I think that integrated care will sort of already be there.
Will you look into your crystal ball for us and tell us what you foresee in the future for integration?
Dr. Blount: Let’s imagine that we get it right in terms of mature programming, mature routines of integration as far as our workforce allows. Then we begin to be able to think about health and illness differently, and the whole set of concepts, the models that we have of understanding health and illness and how to influence those begin to move. I foresee the time when there’s a foundation of mature integrated care that we will be looking at great leaps forward in theory or great research leaps forward with greater understanding of what and how we should be researching. That’s one optimistic thing.
And when I look in my crystal ball I think we are going to have states that begin to have whole-state programs that are starting to be implemented and organized so that we can begin to look at the impact of integration on a really big scale.
Thanks so much to Dr. Blount for sharing his insights in the premiere of the Integrated Care Thought Leader series!
Check back soon for a conversation on integrated care with Benjamin Druss, MD, MPH, Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Chair and Department of Health Policy and Management Professor at Emory University.
I’m happy to be participating in blogging for mental health today. I’m joining in on this year’s blog party because mental health awareness is so important. Each mental health blogger has a unique perspective, addressing important topics such as awareness, recovery, wellness, public policy, services, co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, etc., providing a personal, professional, or business perspective – or any combination of the three. These interesting and informative mental health blogs will provide an abundance of good reading for blog connoisseurs today!
Integrated care, a whole-health approach to healthcare, plays a very important role in mental health. This perspective has been gaining more and more attention over the past decade or so. It is not uncommon for people who receive mental health treatment to have little or no coordination of services with their primary care provider. Conversely, many people seeking primary care services have unmet mental health and/or substance use disorder treatment needs. This lack of coordination frequently results in sub-par outcomes, yet is often much more expensive as a result of duplicate or counter-indicated procedures and treatment. Lack of coordination results in costly emergency department visits, providing episodic treatment rather than a much more effective chronic care regimen and focus on prevention.
In my last post, I suggested that Integrated Care Awareness Day be recognized during Mental Health Month. As we increase awareness of the need to focus on healthcare in a holistic way, we begin to change the perception of mental health, not only for healthcare providers and policy-makers, but also for the public at large. Through improving access to services, controlling healthcare costs, and through tracking and improving health outcomes, we as a society can transition toward a wellness approach in healthcare.
Access to Services
Stigma is a huge barrier to receiving mental health services. Integrated care allows people to access services through mental health providers or primary care providers. They have the choice to receive mental health services where they are most comfortable.
Controlling Healthcare Costs
Coordination of care and focus on prevention help to control overall healthcare spending. The Affordable Care Act has provided the opportunity for changing the way that healthcare is delivered. Medicaid Health Homes are an example of this.
Improving Health Outcomes
Making use of health information technology enables providers to track outcomes, develop disease registries, and to share information for enhancing the coordination of care. As a result, people have improved health outcomes. They are healthier.
I hope you will stop by again soon. The next several posts to come will be a Thought Leader Series, a conversation with the visionary leaders who are instrumental in developing integrated care through research, policy, practice, and their steadfast passion for improving the lives of so many.
On 4/30/2013, President Obama became the first president to sign a proclamation declaring May as National Mental Health Awareness Month. “As a nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling,” he said. “Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness—it is a sign of strength.” (Click here for a full copy of the Presidential Proclamation – National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2013.) This endorsement and recognition are important steps toward acceptance of mental health. However, mental health and physical health are inseparable. And as more healthcare providers provide integrated services, issues of shame and stigma are reduced, thus creating an environment in which asking for help becomes less difficult. The Affordable Care Act has provided numerous opportunities for the integration of behavioral health and primary healthcare.
Wellness – it’s essential to living a full and productive life. It’s about keeping healthy as well as getting healthy.
Wellness involves a set of skills and strategies that prevent the onset or shorten the duration of illness and promote recovery and well-being. Wellness is more than just the absence of disease.
Wellness is more than an absence of disease. It involves complete general, mental and social well-being. And mental health is an essential component of overall health and well-being. The fact is our overall well-being is tied to the balance that exists between our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health.
Whatever our situation, we are all at risk of stress given the demands of daily life and the challenges it brings-at home, at work and in life. Steps that build and maintain well-being and help us all achieve wellness involve a balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, a sense of self-worth, development of coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and connections to family, friends and community.
These steps should be complemented by taking stock of one’s well-being through regular mental health checkups and screenings. Just as we check our blood pressure and get cancer screenings, it’s a good idea to take periodic reading of our emotional well-being.
Fully embracing the concept of wellness not only improves health in the mind, body and spirit, but also maximizes one’s potential to lead a full and productive life. Using strategies that promote resiliency and strengthen mental health and prevent mental health and substance use conditions lead to improved general health and a healthier society: greater academic achievement by our children, a more productive economy, and families that stay together.
As we focus on the importance of good mental health, it’s also an opportune time for increasing awareness of the importance of focusing on whole health rather than segregating mental health and substance use disorder issues. Contrary to popular belief, mental health services are largely provided outside of the mental health system. According to the Milbank Memorial Fund report, Evolving Models of Behavioral Health Integration in Primary Care, as many as 70 percent of primary care visits stem from psychosocial issues. While patients typically present with a physical health complaint, data suggest that underlying mental health or substance abuse issues are often triggering these visits.
Mental illness exacerbates morbidity from the multiple chronic diseases with which it is associated, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer (12–16). This increased morbidity is a result of lower use of medical care and treatment adherence for concurrent chronic diseases and higher risk for adverse health outcomes (17–20). Rates for injuries, both intentional (e.g., homicide and suicide) and unintentional (e.g., motor vehicle), are 2–6 times higher among persons with a mental illness than in the overall population (21,22). Mental illness also is associated with use of tobacco products and alcohol abuse (23).
May has 31 days, so perhaps we can designate one of the days in May as Integrated Care Awareness Day. A day set aside to bring awareness of the benefits of looking at one’s health as a whole rather than segregating mental health from physical health. With this year’s theme, Pathways to Wellness, it is an ideal time to increase awareness.