It’s time to address mental health
April 7, 2014
April 7, 2014
On my way to work Thursday, I opened my BBC News app to read the day’s headlines. The first in the US news section, “US Army Fort Hood murder-suicide: Soldier kills three;” the second, “Afghan conflict: US records rare zero-fatality month.”
The juxtaposition of these two articles got me thinking. The war doesn’t just rage on in countries far away. There is another war here, on our soil, in the minds of our soldiers.
The Fort Hood shooter Ivan Lopez had two deployments, including one four-month tour in Iraq. While his records show no physical wounds or direct involvement in combat, he was being treated for behavioral health issues.
Now is the time for all in the medical field – in both military and civilian life – to focus on truly addressing the behavioral health needs of patients. I’m honored to work with healthcare clients who are doing just that.
SM& client Commonwealth Care Alliance, for example, puts an emphasis on addressing the behavioral health needs of their members, most of whom are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. This vulnerable population experiences significantly higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse than the general population. CCA understands the need to treat the whole person, not just their physical and medical needs but also their social and behavioral needs.
Another SM& client, Lahey Health, is working to integrate behavioral health into primary care across the system and has currently done so in four of their practices. Additionally, Addison Gilbert Hospital, a member hospital of Lahey Health, is participating in ED-SBIRT (screening, brief intervention, referral to treatment), a nation-wide effort to integrate mental health and substance abuse care and prevention in emergency departments. Every patient who comes to the Addison Gilbert emergency room is screened for alcohol or drug abuse and mental health issues.
Rather than waiting until the next tragedy occurs, let’s focus on expanding programs like these to address the behavioral health needs of all.