Embedding Mental Health Professionals in the Primary Care Setting

Posted by | Posted in Mental Health, Physician Services | Posted on 07-11-2013

Presentation1Sometimes, we all need someone to talk to. Be it a best friend, a spouse, your Twitter followers, we all want to be heard.

But, there are times we need more than a friendly shoulder—or a few retweets. And that’s where a new collaboration between Memorial Physician Services and Memorial Counseling Associates comes in.

Four Memorial Physicians Services locations have embedded behavioral health specialists with Memorial Counseling Associates in their respective facilities. These locations include the Memorial Physician Services-Koke Mill, as well as in Jacksonville, Lincoln and Petersburg. The hope is that all Memorial Physician Services facilities will eventually provide this same service.

“In the past, when we’ve had to refer a patient to a behavioral health specialist, we’ve had some difficulty getting them seen in a timely fashion,” says Christopher Rivera, MD, family medicine specialist at Memorial Physician Services-Lincoln. “This new system really eliminates that wait.”

The new system is referred to as a Clinical Care Team, and it’s made up of the patient’s primary care provider and a behavioral health therapist, as well as a psychiatrist that can be consulted as needed.

There are a number of advantages to this addition to the scope of services at Memorial Physician Services.

  • Expert care for mental health needs
  • Quick access to mental health care, even same day care, if needed
  • Convenient access to the mental health professionals’ offices. These counselors are located at the same office as the patient’s primary care provider, meaning the patient already knows the layout and set-up of that office, which is hugely helpful for anyone, but particularly patients who suffer from anxiety.
  • Improved communication between care providers means the quality of care we can provide our patients improves to benefit the overall health of the patient.

 “If a patient has to travel to a different location,” hazards Dr. Rivera, “they might not go.”

“We’ve seen studies that indicate placing primary care providers and behavioral health specialists in the same site offers improved outcomes for patients,” adds Dr. Rivera. “Especially with depression.”

The benefits aren’t limited to the patient—the benefits for the Clinical Care Team are immeasurable.

“With both of us onsite, we can discuss—face-to-face—issues that may arise with the patient,” says Dr. Rivera. “We can be completely in the loop in a way we might not be communicating over the phone or electronically. We can discuss medication issues, new challenges, and even provide same-day service for urgent matters.”

“This really helps me care for my patients in a more in-depth way than I might be able to,” says Dr. Rivera. “As a family medicine physician, my training isn’t specialized in counseling. These behavioral health specialists can provide a level of treatment that is more beneficial.”

“They can spend more time with an individual patient, focusing on their area of expertise.”

Your doctor might recommend you take advantage of this new service if you exhibit symptoms of:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Of course, the service isn’t limited to patients suffering from those conditions.

 “I would recommend this for any patient whose mental or behavioral health is negatively affecting their lives.”

One challenge to patients undergoing treatment for behavioral and mental issues, according to Dr. Rivera, is that, even now, there still remains some hesitance for patients to admit they may need counseling.

“I encounter a lot of resistance. There’s still that stigma surrounding behavioral health counseling. But I remind them that this type of treatment can be just as beneficial, if not more so, than medication.”

If you’d like to take advantage of this convenient service, talk to your MPS physician.

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  • Susan

    Unfortunately, our office still has difficulties finding psychiatric services for our patients with certain insurances. Recently we called “everywhere” in the Jacksonville and Springfield area without being able to find a psychiatrist for one of our Medicare/Medicaid patients to see. Very frustrating!