A Roadmap to Reform: Whole-Person Approaches to Caring for the Body & Brain

2016-05-04 | , Trinity Health

Every day working in health care, we ask ourselves: To whom are we all accountable? As health care leaders, we strongly believe our accountability is to the communities and populations we serve. Most importantly, that service includes addressing all of an individual's needs: physical, behavioral as well as their social determinants of health. To achieve this goal, we must collaborate across our system; across other health care organizations; across national, state and local stakeholders; and across bodies of government. 

Unfortunately, care for both behavioral and physical health has historically functioned as separate and minimally coordinated systems of services. We have disconnected care of the mind from care of the body. Individuals with behavioral health conditions have been stigmatized, receive fragmented care, lack access to care and have a reduced life expectancy. But, we know that we have a moral and economic imperative to reform care delivery and payment systems so that both behavioral and physical health needs are cared for collectively. At Trinity Health, we are inspired by the commitment to make this happen – both looking in the mirror to address how we serve, as well as influencing policymakers to implement and support the needed changes to deliver whole-person, people-centered care. 

Mental health, substance abuse and other behavioral health issues touch us all in one way or another.  There are a multitude of stories, like that of Anna Naebeck, a claims processing representative with the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System in southeast Michigan who knows mental illness first-hand. "As a daughter who saw my dad suffer and eventually take his own life due to mental illness and depression—as well as the thoughts I struggled with after he took his life—these issues are very near to my heart," Anna explains. 

Policymakers need to hear, not hide from these stories. That is why we have developed policy recommendations, are engaging in education, and calling on stakeholders to ask congressional leaders to take action on mental health reform. 

"I believe there is much to be done in this area," continues Anna. "Unfortunately, it seems the only treatment currently offered and covered by insurance are drugs and therapy, which does not address the holistic issues or offer help in what is becoming an epidemic across the country."

Within Trinity Health, we are working diligently to integrate physical and behavioral health for all the populations we serve. We are cultivating engagement, readiness, capacity and capability. We are leading innovative efforts to create a People-Centered Health System that seamlessly cares for all of an individual's needs and is focused on caring for hard-to-reach populations. This work includes:

  • Incorporating behavioral health into new payment and delivery models.
  • Utilizing emerging technologies such as telepsychiatry to expand access. 
  • Promoting collaborative care strategies and tactics.
  • Leveraging the full array of health care workers.
  • Developing an advanced care management model that includes nurse care managers addressing behavioral health conditions along with co-morbid physical conditions.

"To integrate these proven behavioral health therapies into our physical medicine would be awesome," Anna concludes. "I think Trinity Health is the leader that this issue needs, because we not only have the medicine, but the faith-based mission as well."

We will continue to strive for a day when primary care, mental health, addiction and social issues such as the availability of adequate housing are addressed in a seamless system of care. This is achievable if we all come together and commit to serving the whole person: mind, body and spirit. 

May is Mental Health Month, and now is the perfect time to learn other ways to become involved in advancing mental health reform. Check out the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) activity blog; and don't forget to Take Action on behalf of mental health reform.

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