All too often, I find myself writing about how mental health care fails in the U.S. It’s an easy story to write — during hard economic times, health care (especially for the poor and indigent) often takes a big hit from the government.
So it’s always refreshing to write a different story. Especially one where the feds step up and fund not just a good idea, but a great one.
The hero in this instance is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the funding mechanism is the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. Forty-three agencies share in the $26.2 million booty (most receiving about $500,000). The goal of the funding? To help better integrate primary care into the mental health services they offer.
Yes, you heard me right — helping poor people who have a mental disorder get proper health care, sometimes in the same facility where they get their mental health treatment.
This is sort of news is like Opposite World when it comes to treatment. Usually you come in for one concern or another. Got a health concern? Go to the health clinic. Got a mental health concern? Go to the mental health clinic. As you can imagine, this means that a lot of care isn’t very well coordinated.
Worse, mental health providers are rarely setup or have the resources to help with co-existing health concerns. So even if they see that a patient could clearly benefit from a physician’s second opinion or advice, they often have no way to help that patient get in to see a doctor.
According to the news release, “People with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders often have elevated rates of multiple chronic conditions including hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. All too often these health conditions are made worse by lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, smoking, and by the side effects of psychotropic medications,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.
“Many of these health conditions are preventable through routine health promotion activities, primary care screening, monitoring, treatment and care management. Bringing needed health care services to patients in a coordinated and convenient way can go a long way in helping to improve health status.”
Indeed. We’ve long known about the impact that primary care physicians have in helping people get into mental health treatment. Physicians can be an invaluable conduit, when properly educated about how to make a good referral for mental health treatment.
Now we’re going to see some benefits of coordinated primary care in a behavioral healthcare setting. I imagine the results will be beneficial for patients, who will end up getting better and more coordinated care. Which means, hopefully, faster, positive results in treatment.
Congratulations to the mental health departments, centers and organizations that received a part of this award, congratulations to HHS for getting this funding out the door in a timely manner, and congratulations to all Americans for passing the Affordable Care Act and making better health care a reality for millions.
And last, congratulations to The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, a Washington D.C. nonprofit lobbying group that represents 1,700 behavioral healthcare organizations in the U.S. They will receive the remaining $5.3 million in grant funds to establish a national resource center dedicated to integrating primary and behavioral health care.
Read the full news release: HHS Awards $26.2 Million to Expand Primary Care to Individuals with Behavioral Health Disorders