Integrating mental health care in primary care

August 31, 2017

Behavioral health issues such as depression and anxiety are debilitating conditions and, unfortunately, common. But the integration of behavioral health and primary care services is proving successful in improving patient outcomes. The College of Community Health Sciences is exploring such an integrated model of care for University Medical Center, which it operates. In September, the College will host a group from the University of Washington AIMS Center, short for Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions, that will present about its Collaborative Care model to providers and resident physicians who care for patients at UMC. “This is a way to improve access to mental health care,” says Dr. Tom Weida, UMC’s chief medical officer. “This is a great opportunity for folks who have mental health needs to get the care they need.” Collaborative Care treats common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety that require systematic follow-up due to their persistent nature. Primary care providers and embedded behavioral health professionals provide medications or psychosocial treatments and are supported by psychiatric consultation. According to the AIMS Center, offering mental health care in primary care is convenient for patients, builds on existing provider-patient relationships and can help improve care for patients who have both medical and mental issues. Weida said the use of such a model at UMC could have a social worker or psychologist working with a patient and linking the patient with a psychiatrist if needed. He said the social worker and psychologist would keep in regular contact with the patient to monitor outcomes.