Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

The Community Health Center Perspective

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

The Community Health Center Perspective

Article excerpt

The federal health centers program, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the Department of Health and Human Services, has long recognized that the nation's healthcare safety net must weave together primary care, mental health, and substance abuse services to adequately serve uninsured and underserved individuals. As staft at community mental health centers (CMHCs) and community health centers (CHCs) know well, nowhere is the integration of mental health and physical healthcare delivery more important than in the delivery of Healthcare to medically underserved populations.

America's CHCs are the Healthcare home for nearly 16 million individuals, 7 million of whom are uninsured. There are 1,000 CHCs serving 5,000 urban and rural communities across the country, CHCs are required to he open to all in their communities, to be controlled by a patient-majority board, and to offer a comprehensive array of preventive and primary healthcare services.

Behavioral health issues have an ever-expanding presence at CHCs; indeed, mental health conditions constitute the fourth leading reason for a visit to a CHC. According to 2005 federal data, CHCs reported more than 2.7 million encounters for mental health conditions, and another 865,000 encounters for drug or alcohol dependence. In 2005, 74% of federally funded CHCs provided on-site mental health treatment and counseling, and 50% provided on-site substance abuse treatment and counseling services.

In response to the growing need tor behavioral Healthcare among CHC patients, HRSA has prioritized the issue by making mental health service delivery an integral focus of CHCs' work. Furthermore, a number of CHCs are participating in HRSA's Health Disparities Collaborative on Depression, which has assisted CHCs in reengineering and improving the way in which depression is diagnosed and treated in their centers.

CHCs have demonstrated significant commitment in addressing behavioral health issues. However, a number of key challenges continue to shape CHCs' ability to treat the mental and emotional as well as the physical well-being of their patients, such as access to adequate coverage tor behavioral healthcare, the presence of an adequate behavioral health workforce at CHCs, and the development of successful models of integrated primary and behavioral healthcare at CHCs. CMHCs are facing similar challenges. …

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