Published April 3, 2014
For individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses, appropriate psychiatric treatment is often the immediate priority. The significant primary medical needs of this population often go untreated.
Now, an interprofessional team from UB is bringing primary health care directly to individuals with serious mental illness in the same facility where they receive psychiatric care.
Starting April 1, clients enrolled in Lake Shore Behavioral Health’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) and Homeless Services programs at 430 Niagara St., Buffalo, will receive primary care at this location.
This integrated-care model is a collaborative approach between UBMD Family Medicine, part of the physician practice plan of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and Lake Shore Behavioral Health, under the direction of Howard Hitzel.
“We are very excited about this partnership with UB,” says Hitzel, president of Lake Shore Behavioral Health. “Access to high-quality primary care is essential to the well-being of our clients as they work to recover from their mental illnesses.”
Primary care at Lake Shore Behavioral Health will be provided by Kim Griswold, associate professor of family medicine, and Diane Loomis, clinical associate professor in the School of Nursing.
“The burden of medical illness in this population is high but for a number of reasons, patients with behavioral health conditions may find it difficult to settle into a traditional primary care relationship,” says Dan Morelli, interim chair of the Department of Family Medicine.
“Dr. Griswold and Dr. Loomis are bringing primary care to these patients, with the intent of improving the health and management of chronic illness, decreasing episodic use of the health care system, and improving the patient experience,” he says.
Griswold and Loomis have extensive experience in caring for individuals with serious mental illness and have provided outreach to these patients in the past. The newly developed co-location model will facilitate access to primary and preventive care for this vulnerable population.
“This is the first integrated effort that is being launched by UB Family Medicine to provide medical care for the seriously mentally ill,” says Griswold. “Our hope is that we will be able to show improved outcomes to demonstrate that primary care should be part of the bundled services provided by the ACT teams.”
The effort grew out of an understanding on the part of faculty members in the Department of Family Medicine and Lake Shore Behavioral Health psychiatrists Carolyn Young and Jarod Mosci that the primary care needs of many of the seriously mentally ill were not being met.
“On average, people who suffer from serious mental illness die 25 years earlier than the general population,” says Loomis. “Some of the things they do to help improve their psychiatric symptoms, such as taking psychiatric medications and smoking, will help their psychiatric symptoms in one way but also cause terrible side effects.”
The psychiatric medications may increase risk for diabetes, while smoking leads to cardiovascular disease.
“These patients have been out of the medical system,” says Griswold. “So we’ll start with the basics. One of the first things we’ll do is begin to develop trusting relationships and prioritize their health care needs, including needed immunizations.”
The primary care facility at Lake Shore Behavioral Health also will serve as a training site for UB family medicine and nursing students seeking experience working with vulnerable, underserved populations. A UB student in the Department of Family Medicine will begin a primary care rotation at Lake Shore this summer.
“This is a model for interprofessional training, providing an opportunity for medical and nursing students to work side by side to make a real difference in these patients’ lives,” says Griswold.