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:
- People with serious mental illnesses are dying decades earlier than the general population.
- As many as 79% of antidepressants are prescribed by primary care providers.
- Cuts to mental health funding have resulted in the majority of services provided in the correctional system in the US.
- According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people with diabetes are twice as likely to have depression, which can complicate diabetes management, than people without diabetes. In addition, depression is associated with a 60% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
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.
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.