North Carolina AHEC Program
fall 2012 newsletter | home
Southern Regional AHEC Implements Integrated Care Model for Primary and Mental Health Care
Because primary care practitioners are not trained to treat mental disorders, it impedes the identification and treatment of these problems in their patients. Through a two-year grant awarded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, The Family Medicine Center at Southern Regional AHEC is developing a sustainable model of integrated primary care as part of its recognition and operation as a Patient-Centered Medical Home.
Christy Bond began her work in The Family Medicine Center as a medical family therapist for the medical facility on August 6th. As part of the grant, she sees patients who benefit from same-day combined medical/behavioral visits. These include patients with co-morbid diagnoses such as diabetes and depression, as well as those whose management of their diagnoses include a behavioral component, such as high blood pressure and smoking. Studies show that one of the benefits of integrating primary care with mental health care is increased communication and coordination between providers through shared notes, and incorporation of both medical and psychosocial data into patients’ treatment plans. These combined visits include, but are not limited to:
- Targeted behavioral assessment or intervention alcohol screening
- Health risk assessment
- Smoking cessation counseling
Models of integrated primary care have been shown to improve patient outcomes on biomarkers (such as A1c levels, blood pressure, weight, etc.), psychosocial measurements, treatment adherence, patient satisfaction, and provider confidence in addressing mental health and health behavior issues. The program will pilot the use of the Distress Thermometer, originally used in the United Kingdom with oncology patients. It is a global assessment of functioning, capable of measuring the effectiveness of integrated care from a patient-centered ecological perspective.