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Behavioral health at home in primary care

daryl-huggard.jpgDepression in a primary care setting can be difficult to diagnose—it goes undetected in fully half of patients. A behavioral health integration model practiced at U of U Health is changing that, according to a recent article published in the Medical Group Management Association’s Connection magazine.

Daryl Huggard, administrative director for the Community Physician Group, wrote the article to draw attention to the holistic care patients receive at U of U Health community clinics. “Patients are more than their diagnosis or health condition. When a patient comes into clinic, they don’t leave their worries, stresses, emotional or mental health challenges at the door,” Huggard said. “Mental health plays a big role in a patient’s overall health.”

The model works by embedding a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) into the clinic, who then serves as the patient’s and primary care provider’s access point to a range of behavioral health services. The patient’s doctor is still the gatekeeper, but instead of being referred to a crisis center or behavioral health clinic, the patient can begin almost immediately the treatment of her behavioral health needs.

“Our incredible social work team is there to help patients address and overcome any emotional or behavioral challenges that are negatively impacting overall health,” said Huggard.

Over the two-year period the program was evaluated, use of health care services by those treated for behavioral health needs decreased by 16 percent. Patients who went untreated increased their use of health care services by 12 percent.

“Prior to the integrated behavioral health program, almost all patients were sent to the ER or UNI,” Huggard said. “With social work intervention we have been able to lower the number of patients to the ER or UNI by 80 percent.”

Read more about integrating behavioral health in a clinical primary care setting.