behavioral health integration · collaborative care · Integrated Care

Top Ten Useful Measures, Assessments, and Tools for Collaborative Practices

(This blog post is a reprint of a piece in the CFHA Blog from January 15th, 2015. Click here for the original post. Reprinted with permission.)

In primary care, more than half of the office visits are for somatic complaints, which are often associated with depression and anxiety. These conditions often go undetected and can have a significant impact on health outcomes. As providers adopt a collaborative approach to care, many have incorporated the use of assessments for screening and early detection of symptoms of mental health and substance use conditions.

With an abundance of assessments, measures, and tools available for use, many collaborative care practices are challenged with determining which are most effective for use in the limited time available during a routine office visit. Screenings are important for all age groups. Below is a list of the top ten tools for use in practices. These ten were selected based on a number of factors, including reliability, validity, sensitivity, efficiency, and cost. In most cases, the tools are available for use at no cost. Most are also available in multiple languages as well.

  1. PHQ-9: The Patient Health Questionnaire (9) is widely used among primary care providers to identify depression. With only nine questions, this tool is easy to use and has been validated for early detection.
  2. AUDIT: The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test is a 10-item questionnaire developed by the World Health Organization and is found to be very effective in primary care settings.
  3. GAD-7: The seven-item General Anxiety Disorder screening identifies whether a more complete assessment is needed.
  4. DAST-10: The Drug Abuse Screen Test is a brief 10-item self-report tool that is effect for screening adults and adolescents for drug abuse.
  5. PC-PTSD: This four-item screen is effective for detecting post-traumatic stress disorder in primary care settings.
  6. Pediatric Symptoms Checklist: The 17-item version is easy to use in family practices for detecting developmental and behavioral problems.
  7. SBQ-R: The Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire is a four-question scale for assessing suicide-related thoughts and behaviors.
  8. Brief Pain Inventory: The tool is widely used in medical settings for assessing pain, and is available in 23 languages.
  9. Insomnia Severity Scale: This seven-question screening assessment is effective in identifying problems with sleeping.
  10. MDQ: The Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) is a 13-item questionnaire used to screen for bipolar disorder symptoms.

In order to limit the list to ten, there are many excellent tools that did not make this list. For example, some providers prefer the CAGE-AID to the AUDIT-7 for alcohol screening. In addition, many will find it very useful to have additional tools on hang to screen for additional conditions, such as:

  • Geriatric depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Postpartum depression
  • Intimate partner violence
  • ADHD
  • Autism

Integrating these tools into your electronic health record, including them in patient kiosks, and/or instructing support staff to make select tools available for completion while in the reception area are ways in which these cools have been included in practices. With routine use of many of these screening tools, collaborative care practices will efficiently and effectively detect signs and symptoms of behavioral health conditions. This enables earlier intervention, resulting in better health outcomes.

What is on your top ten list?

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behavioral health integration

Integrated Care Thought Leader Series: Dale Klatzker, PhD

The Times, They Are a-Changin’

When Bob Dylan wrote this iconic song, many felt that it captured the spirit of social and political upheaval of the 1960s, much in the same way that we view mental health as “a-changin’.”  And these changes require mental/behavioral health providers to change the manner in which they deliver services.

Reports over the past decade have brought attention to the current mental health crisis:

In addition, over the past few years far too many catastrophic events have brought attention to this mental health crisis, resulting in a public outcry, demanding that changes are made to prevent future tragedies.

But change isn’t easy.

The relatively brief history of community mental health services has been a challenging one. Just a few months ago, as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing the Community Mental Health Bill into law, the conversations quickly progressed to the subject that is on the minds of virtually all behavioral health providers—and an unusually large number of the general public and policy makers, given the historical lackluster interest in the topic—mental health is in dire need of change.

The economic downturn in the US in 2008 resulted in massive budget cuts in all but a few states. The March 2011 NAMI report, State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis, demonstrated the cumulative cut to mental health services in the U.S. during that time was nearly $1.6 billion. Community mental health services plummeted from being barely adequate to the critical point in many states. Safety-net providers were forced to close programs due to the slashed budgets. Many of those affected ended up on the streets or in jail.

The recent announcement on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, of the planned infusion of dollars into help repair our broken mental health system, is encouraging. However, the entire mental health system is in dire need of an overhaul. One that looks at the broader healthcare picture and strategically plans for mental health and substance use disorder treatment to be included. A person-centered, whole health approach to treatment is necessary for improving the patient experience of care; improving the health of populations; and reducing the per capita cost of health care: the Triple Aim.

Dale Klatzker, PhD
Dale Klatzker, PhD

Dr. Dale Klatzker knows that, although it isn’t easy, change is vital for community behavioral health providers.

It’s exciting to be able to offer a look at integrated care from the perspective of a provider, particularly a provider who has demonstrated leadership excellence in integrating behavioral health and primary care services. Dr. Klatzker currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of The Providence Center in Providence, Rhode Island. He has been a leader in behavioral healthcare for more than 35 years. Since becoming president/CEO of The Providence Center in 2004, Dr. Klatzker, a visionary, has transformed the system of care, quality of service delivery, and social policy decision making at The Providence Center and the state of Rhode Island.  Click here for Dr. Dale Klatzker’s bio.

The Providence Center and the Providence Community Health Centers have created a successful partnership to meet the whole-health needs of the people they serve within their community; a need that is clearly outlined in the literature. According to the Robert Wood Foundation’s Mental Disorders and Medical Comorbidity authored by Dr. Benjamin Druss and Elizabeth Walker, comorbidity between medical and mental conditions is the rule rather than the exception:

In 2002, more than half of disabled Medicaid enrollees with psychiatric conditions also had claims for diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), or pulmonary disease, substantially higher than rates of these illnesses among persons without psychiatric conditions. The authors conclude that the high prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses among people with chronic medical conditions should be an impetus for prioritizing the improved integration of behavioral and medical care.

What advice do you have for healthcare leaders?

Dr. Klatzker:  Change is a good thing. Most CMHCs haven’t changed a lot. They haven’t prepared themselves to change a lot and have marginalized themselves and the people that they serve by not being more a part of the mainstream. We have sets of skills that are integral to wellness and to health across a wide spectrum. We need to be proud of what we do, but also to expand it and extend it because this is the perfect time for this. We have a lot of things to offer that others are trying to replicate.

Things don’t stay static. You have to look though the windshield but also through the rear-view mirror. You have to know where you are but you also have to know where you’re going.

As executive director/CEO of a behavioral health organization, you have the obligation to push yourself, and that will push your organization, to do what is necessary so that your mission is reinforced but also to serve the needs of the community. It’s hard to do that if you’re doing the same thing you did 20 years ago. We do our consumers a disservice if we do that.

Person-centered approach to care

Dr. Klatzker: What we’ve embraced here – what’s part of the DNA of the organization at The Providence Center – we  believe in a person-centered approach to care. No two people are exactly the same. The people that we work for deserve as much access to a wide array of both health and social supports as anyone. That’s how you have to guide yourself. When you’re thinking of those things, primary care integration, working much more toward the mainstream of traditional healthcare is imperative for us.(7:14)

What we’ve found is, if you can build those relationships and find the right connections, then others will embrace you and value you for what you bring to the table. In fact, we bring a lot. Partnership is always the first choice, the default.

We don’t chase dollars, we don’t create programs because it’s the idea du jour from some funder somewhere, we consciously look on our mission as our touchstone and build upon that to provide as much choice to the people we serve. We can be very person-centered because there aren’t many gaps in what we’re providing. (They provide a wider array of services than the average CMHC) We’ve consciously built out a wide array because we think it’s the right thing to do. Rather than to take a “no,” if we can’t partner, we build.

Example of a successful integrated care partnership

Dr. Klatzker: The Providence Center is closely connected to one the largest federally qualified health center in the state of Rhode Island, the Providence Community Health Center. We have become the largest community mental health center. Neither had a desire to replicate the services that the other provided. Over the years we’ve built this into a “no wrong door” integrated collaborative effort so that in the mental health center, the FQHC runs a full-service practice with 1100-1200 patients. In the FQHC, we are integrated in their physician practices building and we also have a separate section of their building where we provide longer term care and some other types of specialty care. We’ve integrated our records with each other. We meet frequently to process and to try to figure out how to make our care efficient and effective. We are working closely with them now on adopting our health home model to integrate a modified health home into the FQHC.

Yes, the times they are a-changin’. And so are healthcare providers. (At least the forward-thinking providers like The Providence Center.) They are heeding the findings from the numerous expert reports and research. They are thinking outside the box, adopting a person-centered approach that enables better outcomes for the many who place their trust in them—trusting them to take care of their whole-health needs.

behavioral health integration

Behavioral Health Integration 2013 in Review

2013 has been a very good year for Behavioral Health Integration Blog! Our popular Integrated Care Thought Leader Series began this year, providing insights into the minds of some of the most prominent thought leaders in integrated care, including Dr. Alexander “Sandy” Blount, Dr. Benjamin Druss, Larry Fricks, and Dr. Benjamin Miller. Stay tuned in 2014! We have several excellent integrated care thought leaders lined up, to provide their expert perspectives on whole health and integrating behavioral health and primary care for enhancing health outcomes, reducing healthcare costs, and improving access to healthcare.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

behavioral health integration · collaborative care · healthcare integration · Integrated Care · mental health · primary care behavioral health integration

Integrated Care Thought Leader Series: Benjamin Miller, PsyD

“If we really think about how to change healthcare to make it more accommodating for integration, we must have comprehensive payment reform that pays for the whole, and not the part. We must recognize that administrative structures in health policy entities often perpetuate fragmentation inadvertently. And we must have a way to collect data that can inform not only the clinical case for why integration is good, but the business case for why integration is inevitable.”

Dr. Benjamin Miller
Dr. Benjamin Miller

Healthcare policy plays a crucial role in integrated care. Our current healthcare system contains barriers that prevent successful implementation of behavioral health and primary care integration. We will not be able to effectively adopt whole-health approaches to healthcare until critical changes are made in existing health policy. Thankfully, we can be grateful for those who are out there, tirelessly advocating for changes daily.

Dr. Benjamin Miller has graciously agreed to offer his insights on this important topic for the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. He has made significant contributions to the healthcare industry and health policy, and continues to collaborate with a number of organizations focused on driving the necessary change for creating a more effective healthcare system. Dr. Miller has been the source of considerable inspiration to many (including me). It seems very appropriate, somehow, that I first met him through Twitter. His many tweets on healthcare, policy, and integration, with excellent links to current resources, provide me and many others with an education like no other. I have learned the value of Live Tweeting and Tweet Chats through his example (see Figure 1 below). Thank you, @miller7!

Dr. Miller is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine where he is the Director of the Office of Integrated Healthcare Research and Policy. Dr. Miller is a principal investigator on several federal grants, foundation grants, and state contracts related to comprehensive primary care and mental health, behavioral health, and substance use integration. He leads the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Academy for Integrating Behavioral and Primary Care project as well as the highly touted Sustaining Healthcare Across Integrated Primary Care Efforts (SHAPE) project in Colorado and Oregon.

He received his doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. He completed his predoctoral internship at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where he trained in primary care psychology. In addition, Miller worked as a postdoctoral fellow in primary care psychology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

He is the co-creator of the National Research Network’s Collaborative Care Research Network, and has written and published on enhancing the evidentiary support for integrated care models, increasing the training and education of mental health providers in primary care, and the need to address specific healthcare policy and payment barriers for successful integration. He is the section editor for Health and Policy for Families, Systems and Health and reviews for several academic journals. Dr. Miller is a technical expert panelist on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Innovations Exchange and on the International Advisory Board of the British Journal of General Practice. Miller is the past President of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, a national not-for-profit organization pushing for patient-centered integrated healthcare.

Having long been a firm believer in the need to provide healthcare in a unified manner, Dr. Miller has determined that three barriers prevent integrated care from becoming more widespread: Financing, policy, and data.

Finance

Dr. Miller: If you ask people why integration is or is not making a larger stand in healthcare, it usually comes out that they aren’t able to sustain their clinical innovation. So practices try to figure out ways that they can sustain themselves through all kinds of workarounds. Here in Colorado about three years ago we did a survey of integrated practices and found that 77% of those we surveyed were solely funding their integrated efforts through grants. I don’t think that’s uncommon. Actually, I think it’s very common across the country. A lot of practices that are doing this got funding from foundations, federal government, etc., to make it work. They’re only able to keep their doors open for the program while they’ve got those dollars. I wanted to figure out, why is that such a big deal? Why can’t we just pay for health?  We proposed a project to test out a global payer model for primary care that includes the cost of mental health, just to see if we were to pay primary care a lump-sum of money that includes the cost of that primary care provider, could they sustain themselves? That’s where the Sustaining Healthcare Across Integrated  Primary Care Efforts or SHAPE came from. We wanted to see if paying for primary care differently with mental health, behavioral health, substance abuse providers, working in that integrated context could be sustained. We’re about a year into that and the answer is going to be unanimously, yes.

Large Scale Policy Issues and History

Dr. Miller: If you look at how healthcare is set up, it’s set up to continue to perpetuate fragmentation. It’s set up so that administratively, it’s easier to manage pieces rather than a whole. Our states, communities, and government have done something, in an attempt to manage multiple systems, which has really hurt our attempts to integrate. I’ll give you a very high-level example of that: If you just look at most states, they usually have a different department or division for mental health. We decided to take all the dollars that were going into institutions for folks that had mental health issues and put it back into the community in established community mental health centers. The dollars didn’t really follow the patients in that experiment. Community mental health centers actually didn’t get a whole lot of money to do the job that they were intended to do. And so you have entire systems at state levels that manage mental health. When you want to try and integrate, whether it be in primary care or in the community mental health center with primary care, there are multiple administrative structures that you have to figure out how to align. And often, from a policy perspective, it doesn’t make sense fiscally as to how to align these and what to do with the administrative entities. There are a lot of policy issues. Mainly, how we’ve set up our systems to deliver care at the policy level.

Data, Research, and Infrastructure

Dr. Miller: The other reason I think integration hasn’t been taken to scale nationally as much as we would like, is that practices are relatively immature in their ability to collect data, especially as it relates to collecting that informs the outcome around the whole person and not just a physical health outcome or mental health outcome. If you go into a primary care practice and want to determine how effective a behavioral health provider is, often the electronic medical record and how they are tracking the data are in forms that don’t allow you to extract those data. They’re in free-text notes, or they’re in something that just makes it difficult to get at the data to show what they did and how effective it was. In the same vein, if you look at community mental health centers, it’s even worse. With vast amounts of EHRs, if they even have an EHR, are built around this old-fashioned, almost antiquated, “I need to tell the whole story for the patient” model. That’s good on the clinical level. However, if you’re looking at making a case for something, you need to be able to extract data from those electronic medical records and then tell a story with your data. Many of the community mental health centers simply are not there. They have an opportunity here to advance themselves by collecting better data at the practice level.

Though many in the healthcare industry see policy as something beyond their responsibility and concern, the reality is that it has an impact on each of us. Unless we collectively express our concerns, voice our professional opinions, demand the necessary changes, legislators will continue to make uninformed decisions that have significant impact on healthcare delivery.

While there remains a long way to go before the needed changes outlined by Dr. Miller are in place, the industry as a whole is making significant strides in the right direction. Policies are slowly beginning to change.

Perhaps the perfect storm is approaching for healthcare.

Ben Miller live tweeting at the 2010 CFHA Conference
Figure 1: Ben Miller live tweeting at the 2010 CFHA Conference in Louisville, Ky.
behavioral health integration · behavioral health primary care integration · collaborative care · primary care behavioral health integration

Integrated Care Thought Leader Series: Alexander “Sandy” Blount, EdD

“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

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.

He currently serves as Professor of Clinical Family Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA and Director of Behavioral Science in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.  He teaches resident physicians the psychosocial skills of primary care practice and founded the post-doctoral Fellowship in Clinical Health Psychology in Primary Care.  He was previously Director of the Family Center of the Berkshires in Pittsfield, MA and a faculty member at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York. He has more than thirty-seven years experience as a therapist, teacher of physicians and therapists, administrator and lecturer in the US and abroad.  He is a member of the National Integration Academy Council and has had a leadership role in state and national efforts developing healthcare policy.  His books include Integrated Primary Care: The Future of Medical and Mental Health Collaboration published by W. W. Norton and Knowledge Acquisition, written with James Brule’, published by McGraw-Hill.  Click here for more information about Dr. Blount.

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. BlountI 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. BlountLet’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.

collaborative care

CFHA Blog: Collaborative Care Is An Evidence Based Treatment Model For Depression And Anxiety

Collaborative Care Is An Evidence Based Treatment Model For Depression And Anxiety

Posted By Pamela Williams in CFHA* Blog

As readers of this blog are well aware, depression and anxiety “are a major cause of disease burden and disability with depression projected to become one of the three leading causes of burden of disease by 2030.” It is estimated that 90% of people who suffer from depression and anxiety are treated solely by their primary care physician, and the majority of these interventions are exclusively pharmacological. Many people also report being unsatisfied with the level of care they receive. While these facts point toward collaborative care being a logical and effective treatment model for depression and anxiety, there was not enough research that provided conclusive evidence to support recommending collaborative care for those with depression and anxiety problems until this year.

Click here to read the complete story on the CFHA Blog

*Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA) promotes a comprehensive and cost-effective model of healthcare delivery that integrates mind and body, individual and family, patients, providers and communities. CFHA achieves this mission through education, training, partnering, consultation, research and advocacy. 

behavioral health integration

Reducing Health Disparities Among People with Serious Mental Illness

“Psychiatrists need to pay attention to weight, lipid levels, blood pressure, and exercise in our patients with serious mental illness,” declares psychiatrist Dale Svendsen, M.D., medical director at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and co-author of the NASMHPD report. “The psychiatrist of the future is going to have to be more of a general physician than in the past, and our training programs are going to need to adapt.” In Those With Serious Mental Illness Suffer From Lack of Integrated Care, in Psychiatric News January 5, 2007, Vou. 42, No. 1, Pg. 5 Mark Moran summarizes the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) report “Morbidity and Mortality in People With Serious Mental Illness.” Emphasizing the recommendation that people with serious mental illness “be designated as a distinct health-disparities population under the federal government’s initiative to reduce disparities in health outcomes.”  Perhaps psychiatrists need to pick the stethoscope back up again…. and actually  touch their patients.

Moran goes on to look at compelling data: In a study of people (25 to 44 years old) with serious mental illness in Massachusetts over a six year period, the cardiovascular rate was nearly seven times that of the general population. In another study in Ohio, state psychiatric hospital discharges were tracked over a six year period. People who had been hospitalized there died at three times the expected rate, primarily due to cardiovascular disease. The average loss of life was a startling 32 years. The NASMHPD report drew clear connections between antipsychotic medications in the development of metabolic syndrome in people with serious mental illness, particularly when multiple medications are prescribed. Their recommendations include integration of behavioral health and physical health, promotion of  the recovery model, supporting wellness, and the implementation of care-coordination models.

In the nearly four years since this was published, there has been a marked increased in focus on the serious health disparities of this vulnerable population. The question remains whether there has been an improvement in overall health among this group. While ongoing studies must be conducted to adequately address this question, I am encouraged by the concentration on the issue. The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Mental Health Corporation of America, Association of Healthcare Research and Quality, the Carter Center, the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, National Institute of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admistration, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement, Collaborative Care Research Network, Health Resources and Services Administration, and a variety of other national and state associations have initiatives directed toward integration efforts. These efforts include new programs, partnerships, grants, learning collaboratives, and research. APS Healthcare of Georgia’s Disease Management division is working on an initiative with various community behavioral health organizations to create a ‘Virtual’ Medical Home. This novel approach is led by Dr. Bob Climko, Senior Medical Director. Health indicators in people with serious mental illness are monitored through telephonic health coaching and Medicaid claims data made available to providers.

It is hopeful that this increased focus will result in a significant increase in longevity for people with serious mental illness. In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “Let us recognize that there can be no health without mental health.” It would appear that the reverse is true as well: There can be no mental health without health.