With nearly one in four Americans affected by a behavioral health condition, many health systems are trying to better integrate behavioral and primary care services. Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood, Fla., has done this with its new, federally funded Mind/Body Wellness Program.
Implemented in February, the program provides chronic disease self-management support, nutrition guidance, smoking cessation education, and other services to patients at Memorial Outpatient Behavioral Health Center. Telepsychiatry units also have been installed at the outpatient center and at two South Broward Community Health Services centers so that patients have access to behavioral health providers during primary care visits.
David Freedman, project director for the Mind/Body Wellness Program, said, “Patients appreciate having the services provided at the same site where they are receiving other care,” adding, “They value the coordination of services and appointments.”
An October 2015 report by America’s Essential Hospitals found that behavioral health and primary care integration is an important way to reach vulnerable populations by increasing access, reducing stigma of behavioral health issues, and increasing efficiency for care providers.
Studies show that adults with both physical and behavioral health issues are prone to greater morbidity and mortality than those who do not have these co-occuring conditions.
“The increased morbidity and mortality is attributed to lack of access to health care, poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and medication side effects,” Freedman said. “The Mind/Body Wellness Program addresses these concerns by providing a variety of services to meet health needs.”
Hospital staff assigned to the program meet weekly to work on personalized treatment plans for each patient. Long-term goals of the project include reducing emergency department admissions and other preventable hospitalizations. The overall cost of patient care also is expected to drop, Freedman said.