2018-07-05 / Opinions

Guest VIEWpoint

Health care focusing on behavioral and social
By Jill Armentrout
Fund Development Coordinator, Great Lakes Bay Health Centers


Jill Armentrout Jill Armentrout In more offices and settings, healthcare no longer focuses only on physical health, but all aspects of a person’s wellness – including their behavioral health and social needs.

Treating the whole patient takes a team of caregivers, including nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, physician assistants, medical assistants, therapists and social workers, as well as educators and community support.

Physical health impacts mental health and mental health impacts physical health, but there is a history of healthcare splitting them into different locations and providers. That is changing and helping better serve patients.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

• Primary care settings, like a doctor’s office, provide about half of all mental health care for common psychiatric disorders

• Adults with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders also have higher rates of chronic physical illnesses and die earlier than the general population

• People with common physical health conditions also have higher rates of mental health issues.

• Most children with mental health conditions are treated in a primary care setting instead of a specialized mental health setting.

• People are often more comfortable seeking mental health care in their primary medical setting, especially if they are afraid of the stigma of mental illness. It can be very important for patients with chronic mental illness to access primary medical care in their behavioral health setting where they feel more comfortable.

There is great need for more access to behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment, especially with the opioid crisis growing in Michigan. Community Health Centers are working to combine medication assisted treatment with counseling to support patients in dealing with addiction recovery.

Healthcare can continue to improve as providers address all aspects of a patient’s needs, and get them more involved in setting goals for their health so they are empowered to improve and have tools to make changes.

Mental health and physical health are becoming integrated in many ways. Community Mental Health Authorities, such as Huron Behavioral Health, have primary medical care offices through Great Lakes Bay Health Centers inside their offices. Community Health Centers like GLB Health Centers in this region are patient-centered medical homes that provide team-based care for patients on Medicaid who have chronic conditions including mental health and substance use disorders, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

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