Community health centers fulfill an important need in our society. These organizations make care accessible to populations who otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive care due to barriers such as cost, location, lack of health coverage, or not speaking and understanding English. In addition to having access to much needed primary care services, the more than 28 million people who are served by community health centers also are often given access to behavioral health care. This is particularly important as the individuals in these communities are not immune to behavioral health issues and in fact may often struggle more with conditions such as depression as a result of their circumstances.
Essentially, behavioral health management in community health centers starts out roughly the same as it does in other primary care practices – with a screening or assessment to determine which, if any, behavioral health issues are affecting the patient. From there, though, the way in which the conditions are addressed is likely to be different as behavioral health practitioners are typically located directly in the community health center, allowing for both diagnosis and care to occur in the same location. Let’s take a look at some of the conditions that are particularly prominent in communities served by CHCs as well as some of the basics for how behavioral health can be managed in this setting.
Many people believe that the stresses associated with living in a lower socioeconomic status can make an individual particularly susceptible to behavioral health issues. This theory makes a great deal of sense. Being perpetually worried about having enough money to buy food and pay bills can lead to a deeper state of anxiety over time. Having a feeling of hopelessness for improvement of circumstances can give way to depression after long enough. Wanting to squash feelings of depression and anxiety, or making an attempt at escaping the pressures of circumstances, can lead to substance abuse. Life in a lower socioeconomic status is hard and difficult circumstances can certainly bring about a greater chance of behavioral health issues.
The National Survey of Drug Use and Health found that 2.5 million of the 9.8 million American adults age 18 and over who have serious mental illness live below the poverty line. Depression is diagnosed almost twice as often in Americans living in poverty than those who live above the poverty line. Poverty is one of the leading causes of anxiety in America. Simply put, this is a population that is in need of solid behavioral health care.
The 3 dimensions to behavioral health management in primary care and what’s unique about CHCs
Primary care providers essentially have three main ways in which they can help their patients to manage their behavioral health. The first of these is to implement a general behavioral health screening for all patients. Screenings for physical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are the norm; it’s time for behavioral health screenings to follow suit. In this way, you can often identify patients who otherwise would have remained unidentified and continued to struggle alone.
The next is through indication based assessments. This is when the patient’s report of symptoms indicates a potential behavioral health issue that needs to be investigated. It’s important to note that symptoms of behavioral health disorders are not limited to mental and emotional symptoms. When dealing with ambiguous physical symptoms, primary care physicians would be wise to consider a possible behavioral health cause.
Finally, there is follow up and monitoring. Assessing, diagnosing, and beginning treatment is not all there is to behavioral health management. As with any other condition you would care for in your patients, behavioral health treatment must be monitored in order to determine how the patient is responding. This allows for adjustments where needed and the ability to note when the issue has been resolved.
What’s unique to community health centers, though, is the benefit of co-location. For primary care providers in private practice they may identify and diagnose a behavioral health issue, but from there they will often refer to a behavioral health specialist located in a separate facility. In a community health center, once a patent is assessed and diagnosed they can often be seen by a counselor or psychiatrist right on site. This can allow for greater communication between the patient’s care team and improve the patient’s overall health outcome.
Behavioral health is integral to a patient’s overall well-being and when patients are living in stressful conditions, the chances of developing a behavioral health condition is greater. Thankfully, community health centers are particularly well-positioned to benefit these patients by having behavioral health practitioners right on site to provide services. First, though, a patient must be assessed and their primary care provider is the ideal individual to do this. For the CHC primary care provider who wants to objectively assess their patients’ behavioral health condition without sacrificing efficiency, there is Greenlight. Greenlight is a complete, digital behavioral health assessment solution that features scientifically validated assessments, self-administered by the patient using a computer or tablet, allowing for improved clinical outcomes and ancillary revenue for the practice with unsurpassed efficiency. Would you like to learn more about Greenlight and how it can help you care for your patients better?
Call 833-433-2482 or visit henryscheinsolutionshub.com for more information.