The trend toward integration of behavioral health services and primary care is good news for the millions of Americans with mental health disorders. Research shows that people with mental illness die 14 to 32 years earlier than the general population. They are more likely to be obese, smoke cigarettes, and frequently have untreated heart disease, diabetes, and other medical conditions. 1 Poverty, stigma, and lack of access to quality health care are other contributing factors.

As many premature deaths are due to preventable and treatable causes such as high blood pressure, poor diet and fitness, and smoking, comprehensive screenings that address physical health, as well as behavioral health, can identify these risks. Care managers should be aware that many people with mental illness don’t see a primary care physician on a routine basis. Consequently, medical conditions are not identified and treated early on and can result in serious illness later.

In addition, conditions such as anxiety and depression may have their origins in a physical disease. For example, sleep apnea or poor control of diabetes may result in symptoms that mimic a major depressive disorder. Heart disease, thyroid problems, and respiratory disease can cause symptoms of anxiety. A thorough evaluation to address an individual’s physical health, mental health, and social environment is essential to the development of a treatment plan that addresses the needs of the ‘whole person.’ Ideally, the client can receive all of the services needed in one place, without having to make multiple appointments. FQHCs (Federally Qualified Health Centers) are designed to provide comprehensive primary care and behavioral health services, and are an important resource for healthcare services in rural and underserved communities.

Given that an estimated 20% of people age 55 years, or older, report some type of mental health concern such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder,2 care managers are likely to encounter clients who could benefit from comprehensive, integrated evaluations and care coordination. This can present challenges if a client’s physician is not part of a practice involved in an integrated care model. In these situations, care managers can identify and refer the client to the appropriate providers, facilitate communication between all involved parties, and closely monitor the client’s care.

arrangeCARE specializes in helping clients and families coordinate their care to prevent these issues. If you are a professional, who works with families, in search of care management assistance, we are experts at managing the holistic care of clients. If you are a families who is struggling with the holistic care of a loved one and you need help with the maze of the medical system, we can help!

1National Institute of Health – “No Health Without Mental Health”
2CDC – Mental Health