Integrated Health and Mental Health Care
Recognizing that mental well-being and physical health are so closely related, the Mental Health Association is working to help integrate mental health and substance use screening and treatment into primary medical care in the community.
We have partnered with the Fauquier Free Clinic to create a model of what we call “collaborative care”, where patients who come in for medical care are also screened for anxiety and depression and referred immediately to mental health services at the clinic or through telehealth providers.
We are now exploring ways to bring a collaborative care model to other primary care settings in the community, including access to tele-mental health care to supplement local resources.
Why is Integrated Care Important?
Most people with mental health challenges will be diagnosed and treated in the primary care setting. Depression and anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions seen in primary care, often complicating other medical conditions and making them more difficult to treat. In the same way, medical problems can lead to behavioral health problems like depression, anxiety and substance use.
Impact on Overall Health
The impact of mental health problems on overall health is well documented:
- High co-morbidity rates of health and mental health conditions (estimated 40% or more of patients at the Free Clinic have symptoms of depression and/or anxiety)
- Mental health and substance use conditions are widespread among persons with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions
- Depression and anxiety can adversely affect management of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes
- High rates of overall health problems and premature death among individuals with serious mental illnesses (per CDC data)
Benefits of Integration
Integration of mental health services and primary care health services has been shown to:
- Increase access to mental health care (better identification of mental health issues, immediate referral for treatment, consultations between medical doctor and psychiatrist on medications)
- Reduce stigma – people often prefer to receive treatment in a primary care setting, which is perceived as less stigmatizing than traditional mental health system
- Improve health outcomes