How primary care providers can bridge the mental health gap for patients


Patients with mental illnesses need close, coordinated care by both their primary care doctors and their behavioral health providers, according to an article published by CNN. 

It's common for patients with mental health issues to neglect their physical health and those with severe mental illness are more likely to die prematurely than those without such problems, the article said. Those deaths are often from treatable chronic diseases.

The old model of healthcare where a patient with a mental illness was simply referred to a primary care doctor doesn't work, Garrett Moran, who directs an academy on the integration of behavioral health and primary care for the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, told Anna Gorman of Kaiser Health News, who wrote the article. Instead, those patients require monitoring by both their primary care and mental health providers to ensure that both behavioral and physical problems are addressed, he said.

To bridge the gap, providers are forming partnerships to improve their patients' physical and mental health and cut healthcare costs. Projects are underway in a number of states including California, New York, Washington and Florida, the article noted.

There is a strong link between physical and mental health issues, such as the correlation between chronic illness and serious depression, the article noted. For example, major depressive disorder is found in 40 percent of cancer patients, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For many Americans, access to mental health services remains a challenge. Indeed, the advocacy group Mental Health America found some health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act do not provide the same level of mental health benefits as physical health benefits,

Many people suffering from mental illnesses also seek care in hospital emergency rooms. Yet, one survey found more than 8 in 10 emergency physicians say mental health treatment resources are inadequate.

To learn more:
- read the article