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Professional News
When MH Care Is Isolated, Serious Sequelae Result
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 17 page 9-9

Integrating physical and mental health services improves health outcomes and consumer satisfaction and promotes efficiency in health care financing.

That's the message in a new report by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law titled "Get It Together: How to Integrate Physical and Mental Health Care for People With Serious Mental Disorders."

"The wall between physical and mental health care perpetuates a public health crisis," said Chris Koyanagi, author of the report and policy director at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, an advocacy group for people with mental disabilities based in Washington, D.C.

"The lack of integration can leave chronic medical conditions undetected and lead to higher health care costs and needless suffering," she emphasized.

The Bazelon Center report lists barriers to integration of services and outlines four models for integration in programs around the country. These models include:

The first three are cited as models to integrate care for people with serious mental illness. The fourth, co-location, is best used for integration of services to consumers with mild to moderate mental illnesses; these people are seen mostly in primary care settings, according to the report.

The report also spells out policy initiatives for service delivery, financing, monitoring, and quality assurance that public health and mental health systems can adopt to nurture integration of services through each of the models.

Among the recommended initiatives are

APA President-elect Steven Sharfstein, M.D., said the report underscores what psychiatrists have long known.

"Mind and body are one," he said. "Psychiatric physicians have always known that it is essential to bring mental disorders and other medical conditions together in primary care, the acute hospital, and across specialty settings.

"The Bazelon Center report has it right," Sharfstein said." An essential step in integrating mental disorders with all medical conditions is parity of insurance coverage. Another is bringing mental health specialists together with medical and surgical specialists. Integrating substance use disorders with all other mental disorders is another urgent priority. We have a long way to go."

An executive summary of "Get It Together" is posted online at<www.bazelon.org/integration>. The full report can be purchased online at<http://store.bazelon.org>.

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