Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
These days, everyone is talking about the importance of integrating mental health care with primary care. The federal government is investing in integration of mental health services into primary care sites, and vice versa—integration of primary care into mental health practices. The state of West Virginia is also investing in integration efforts through a variety of means, including the WV Health Home initiative in which we are a participant. All of this attention can only help the health and wellbeing of the population.
But why all of this attention to the integration of primary care and mental health care? The World Health Organization provides these startling facts:
- People with severe mental disorders on average tend to die earlier than the general population. There is a 10-25 year life expectancy reduction in patients with severe mental disorders. The vast majority of these deaths are due to chronic physical medical conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases, diabetes and hypertension. Suicide is another important cause of death.
- Mortality rates among people with schizophrenia are 2 to 2.5 times higher than the general population.
- People with bipolar mood disorders have high mortality rates ranging from 35% higher to twice as high as the general population. There is a 1.8 times higher risk of dying associated with depression.
- People with severe mental illness do not receive the same quality of physical health care as the general population. The majority of deaths of patients with severe mental illness that are due to physical medical conditions are preventable with more attentive checks for physical illness, side effects of medicines and suicidal tendencies.
Clearly, it is our responsibility as a mental health provider in the community to be attentive to not only the mental health needs of our clients, but their physical health needs as well. Almost three years ago, Highland Behavioral Health Services, Inc, otherwise known as Process Strategies, began a primary care program on site at our 1418 MacCorkle Ave SW location in Charleston. Opening this center allowed us to provide, in the same location, mental health care, primary care, and pharmacy services. These services have since been expanded to our Advance Healthcare@UC location in Kanawha City. So, we have the programs, what’s next?
This week we welcomed a new primary care provider into our Highland Family of programs. Laure Marino MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, GNP-BC, a highly experienced and respected board certified Family and Geriatric Nurse Practitioner in this community for the last 18 years, has joined us to take the helm of our Process Strategies Primary Care Center. Laure brings with her a wealth of experience in clinical primary care, the development of health home models, patient centered care programming, and the use of electronic medical records to improve the quality of communication and coordination of care between primary care providers and mental health providers. Laure has three important goals for her services at Process Strategies Primary Care:
1. To provide comprehensive general medical care to Process Strategy clients, smoothly integrated with their mental health treatment plan, that reduces their overall burden of disease;
2. To be a new source of comprehensive primary care to the greater Charleston community and;
3. To provide primary care to our Highland employees and families as a full participant in our wellness programs.
We cannot wait to facilitate Laure’s efforts to meet these goals. We know how important primary care is to the general population and specifically to the behavioral health population. If you or someone you know would like to make an appointment for care at our Process Strategies Primary Care center, please call 304-348-1283. Come see what a difference attention to the whole person makes!