Family physicians have role as behavioral health navigators


Family physicians have taken on a new role: connecting their patients to  behavioral health resources.

Family physicians are in a unique position to take on that role because they have built up years of good will with their patients. And, thus, their patients are far more likely to trust them, according to J. LeBron McBridge, Ph.D., director of behavioral medicine at the Floyd Medical Center Family Medicine Residency in Rome, Georgia, reports AAFP News.

How to break the ice with patients? It could be as easy as asking them, “How are things at home?”

While a family physician may not be able to handle all of their patients’ mental health issues, they can serve as a “catalyst” for getting a patient or the patient’s family member access to the behavioral health specialist or the community support services they need, writes McBridge in a recent article in the Annals of Family Medicine.

“Never underestimate the power of a calm and compassionate family physician upon a family struggling with mental illness. It may be the healing engagement of the family physician that becomes the family’s lifeline to find inner strengths and external avenues to survive,” he writes.

Half of all Americans experience a behavioral health disorder during their lives and a quarter of all adults face a mental illness each year, as previously reported by FiercePracticeManagement. Integrating behavioral and physical healthcare services can help, as can building networks and partnerships with community stakeholders.