Behavioral Health Integration program makes access to specially trained practitioners easier
At Kootenai Health, we believe caring for your mental health is just as important as your physical health to build a foundation for a long and healthy life.
However important mental health may be, it can be difficult for patients to access mental health services due to high demand and long wait times. Others may delay seeking care because they believe there is a stigma around mental health services.
To make health care (for the mind and body) seamless and comprehensive, Kootenai Clinic primary care offices have adopted an innovative program that bridges our traditional clinic model with in-house mental health services. This collaboration and co-located care is known as our Behavioral Health Integration program.
“Behavioral health issues are extremely common in society and can impact any individual at any time. They can be triggered by events, family history or just the everyday stresses of life,” said Jill Weeks, executive director of transitional care services. “Sometimes, when these issues are shared with a primary care provider, they may be beyond the comfort level of the provider’s diagnostic skill set. With Behavioral health integration, the primary care providers are able to connect patients with specially trained behavioral health practitioners such as social workers, counselors or psychiatrists quickly and easily within the clinic.”
The Behavioral Health Integration program creates a framework where a team of physicians, nurses, advanced practice professionals, pharmacists, social workers and mental health specialists work as a team to create thorough health care plans for patients. If advantageous, the care plan may include onsite counseling, a discussion with a social worker, or specialized referrals or consultations with pharmacists.
When this group comes together as a team, patients benefit with better outcomes.
“We modeled our program after best practices at Mayo Clinic and the University of Washington,” said Weeks. “We know from our research and in reviewing their best practices that patients do best when we can address the whole person. By providing behavioral health services (such as counseling) within our clinic, our patients feel fully supported.”
At Kootenai Clinic, having all these resources also means fewer appointments.
When health care services are handled by a variety of providers in different locations, patients frequently encounter barriers, preventing them from accessing care. Sometimes, if accessing care is too cumbersome, patients will stop pursuing services altogether.
“When physicians and behavioral health offices are separated, it can lead to fragmented care, higher costs, duplication of services or so many barriers that patients stop trying,” said Weeks. “By bridging these services we can help reduce costs, improve outcomes, decrease stigma around mental health services and improve access to much needed care. These brief interventions allow the patient to get stabilized and re-focus on the care they need for their chronic health issues.”
Kootenai Clinic has begun offering Behavioral Health Integration programs at the Internal Medicine clinic locations in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls as well as the Family Medicine clinic locations at Coeur d’Alene-Ironwood and in the Coeur d’Alene Family Medicine Residency. There are plans to continue to grow this service to additional clinics due to its resounding success.
If you are interested in this service, please contact our Kootenai Clinic Appointment Center at (208) 625-6767 to schedule an appointment at one of our participating clinic locations.