Integrated Health Care

An Integration of Mental Health Services and Primary Health Care

Integrated health care is a system of health care in which both mental and physical problems and disorders are treated simultaneously. It is a system that recognizes that a mental disorder must be treated with equal importance as a physical disorder. President Bush’s New Freedom Commission Report on Mental Health reinforces this idea:

“Understanding that mental health is essential to overall health is fundamental for establishing a health system that treats mental illnesses with the same urgency as it treats physical illnesses.”

In order to properly treat individuals with mental disorders we must pay closer attention to how the mental and general medical care systems can work together. It is clear that mental and physical health are connected, and with a transformed system in which both care systems collaborate for care, we can bridge the gap that currently exists between these two systems. Under an integrated health care system, effective mental health treatments will be available for most mental disorders, and primary care providers will have the necessary time, training and resources to appropriately treat mental health problems and have access to mental health specialists when it is necessary to make a referral.

Total Well-Being

For people who live with mental illnesses, a healthy lifestyle is especially important. Sometimes, it is easy to become so focused on treating a mental illness that physical health is neglected. But having a healthy body contributes to emotional recovery. Eating the right foods, exercising, finding ways to manage stress, getting enough rest and having friends and activities that you enjoy are all part of healthy living. It can help you make better choices for yourself, develop new interests and even make new friends and acquaintances, leading to a happier, more fulfilling life. Review information about the importance of physical health in conjunction with mental health, and to access the Hearts and Minds booklet visit NAMI Hearts and Minds.

The Mind Body Connection

Research has shown that having depression can affect other physical illnesses such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, and heart disease. Having depression can make these, and other illnesses more frequent, severe and difficult to treat. If depression is untreated, many illnesses can worsen. So, treating depression can help individuals manage physical illness and improve their general health.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feels of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability

If five or more of these symptoms are present every day for at least two weeks and interfere with routine daily activities such as work, self-care, and childcare or social life, seek an evaluation for depression. Visit the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) for more information on depression.

The Collaborative Family Approach to Healthcare

“The collaborative family healthcare model envisions seamless collaboration between psychosocial, biomedical, nursing, and other healthcare providers, and views patient, family, community, and provider systems as equal participants in the healthcare process. This approach is a radical departure from conventional “diagnose and refer” models and is distinctly different from the usual managed care approaches. It recognizes that clinical events always occur at biological, psychological and social levels, and that patient, family, and community represent a single ecosystem. By adding the essential ingredients of psychological and family care at the front end, and continuously throughout the healthcare process, and by coordinating and integrating the hard-won expertise of these and other healthcare professions, the wasteful use of repeated diagnostic procedures is minimized, as are costly sub-specialty referrals. It is a profoundly ethical approach that conserves resources for all participants: patients and their families, clinical providers, administrative and financial entities .” For more information, visit Collaborative Family Healthcare Association.

Research Reports

NH Mental Health Commission Report ~ Vol. I

Access NH – Living with Disability in the Granite State, Vol. 1, Issue 2

Policy Brief: The Changing Dynamics of Hospital Care for Mental Illness & Substance Use in NH – Implications for Supporting Continuums of Care

NH’s Prescription for Mental Health Care – Comprehensive, Integrated and Coordinated Health Care

Documenting NH’s need to fundamentally revise its approach for treating mental and physical health and substance use disorders.

Get it Together
How to Integrate Physical and Mental Health Care for People with Serious Mental Disorders

This report examines model programs for improving integration and coordination of behavioral health and primary health services for adults and children with serious mental disorders who rely on the public mental health system for their care.

Integrating Publicly Funded Physical and Behavioral Health Services:
A Descripton of Selected Initiatives – Final Report

This report was prepared for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to identify and describe existing models of publicly funded integrated service programs.

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