How’s this for bad news? Suicide is on the rise. After declining through the 80s and 90s, there has been an increase on the order of 25% in deaths by suicide in the new millennium. The increase has been experienced over all age groups with an especially dramatic rise among adolescent girls.
Experts cite any number of reasons for the increase, ranging from economic stressors to the rising tide of drug abuse. But regardless of the cause, one common characteristic of suicide is the silence in which it happens.
“We go to the doctor if we feel bad physically, and we talk about our symptoms,” said Jeff Hubbell, GraceMed Director of Behavioral Health. “We as a society need to become more accepting of going to the doctor when we’re not feeling well emotionally.”
Making the transition seamless
That disconnect when it comes to our mental wellness is one reason why GraceMed is integrating behavioral health into our holistic range of services. We saw a need to make counseling as accessible as medical care by building a partnership between providers and consultants. And with our ability to provide telehealth services, our behavioral health team can consult with anyone at any of our clinics.
“Providers often encounter situations where behavioral health issues are evident in the course of an examination,” said Angela Theobald, APRN from our ComCare Clinic. “When we can make a referral to a provider just down the hall, the transition is easier for the patient, and there’s an enhanced opportunity for team collaboration to improve outcomes.”
There’s also the reality that 30 to 50 percent of primary care patients referred for behavioral health don’t follow through with their appointments. This integrated model for care increases compliance with the referral, in part because some of the stigma associated with going to a separate office to see a specialist is diminished. The behavioral health care essentially becomes a seamless part of the overall care plan managed by your medical provider.
Continuous Care = Healthier Patients
The need for integration of services is very real. Surprisingly, studies have shown that 70% of all primary care visits are related to psychosocial issues. And yet two-thirds of people with a behavioral health disorder are not getting treatment. Exactly the same percentage of primary care providers are reporting that they are unable to access outpatient counseling for their patients. GraceMed’s inclusive model for care is designed to address these trends.
When behavioral health care is accessed as an extension of primary care, the overall health of patients improve. One reason why is the fact that an underlying behavioral disorder can affect the patient’s degree of compliance with his or her treatment regimen.
Sandrine NKouga, APRN with GraceMed Healthy Family Clinic, explained it this way, “If you’re a diabetic, it’s not uncommon for you to also have some degree of depression. That can mean that you tend to be less likely to take your medications or follow your diet. If you are also being treated for your depression, your compliance with medications can improve.”
GraceMed was awarded a federal grant to expand our behavioral health services. Referrals to our consultants can come from any of our GraceMed clinics. We look forward, however, to expanding our capacity for this essential service to more of our clinics in the future. As Jeff said, “One of the best things we can do for ourselves and our loves ones is to get help by seeing a professional whether it be a therapist, psychiatrist, or primary care doctor.”