Treating mind, body and spirit: Integrated partnerships support whole-person care
By Stephanie McClain, project impact manager and Leslie Allison, LMFT, behavioral health manager
Diabetes and depression occur together in the same person, but in American healthcare, they’re treated separately: The brain and the body get healthcare in different buildings, by different doctors, with different billing systems and different health records.
It's confusing, inefficient treatment. It’s also expensive, time-consuming, and if it’s hard for practitioners to navigate, imagine how the patient feels.
Wouldn’t it be better to treat related health conditions together, in a single office visit?
For a growing number of healthcare practices, the solution is Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) – clinics with a combination of primary care and mental/behavioral health services in a single setting, and in many cases, in the same exam room. For example, IBH can help patients with chronic and mental illnesses like diabetes and depression, which often occur together.
Integrating care in vulnerable communities
Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ commitment to whole-person wellness for low-income, uninsured populations, is advanced through its investments in IBH models of care, through work with South Texas partner organizations and in providing direct services to our own clinical patients in San Antonio.
A key component of Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ advancement of IBH is Sí Texas: Social Innovation for a Healthy South Texas. The project began in 2014 to help organizations in 12 counties test, improve and grow IBH services. From 2014 to 2019, a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has made up to $20 million available for the Sí Texas initiative to implement, study and scale IBH in clinics serving vulnerable communities along the Texas border. The federal funds were matched 2:1 through partnerships with Methodist Healthcare Ministries, Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation and other Texas philanthropies.
“All types of providers have long recognized the importance of treating the whole person to achieve better outcomes for the patient.” says Jennifer Knoulton, vice president of regional operations. She explains that the challenges are about improving and aligning fragmented systems of care so integration can thrive.
Treating mind, body and spirit
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is one of eight organizations selected for partnership with Methodist Healthcare Ministries to participate in the Sí Texas project. “IBH puts the brain back in the body,” says Dr. Deepu George, assistant professor of clinical family & community medicine at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) School of Medicine. “It creates health care that’s better at treating the whole person, mind, body and spirit.”
Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Methodist Healthcare Ministries has been working toward integration in its own Wesley Health & Wellness Center and Dixon Health & Wellness Center since 2016.
“Our team-based IBH model allows each team members’ skills to be used at the highest levels,” says Dr. Edward Dick, vice president of integrated health services. “We’re finding higher satisfaction for both our providers and patients in our clinics; we’re also finding that once providers have practiced in a successful IBH program, they wonder why they haven’t been able to work this way in the past. It’s a compelling return on investment.”
Filling gaps, building evidence
In the last decade, widespread evidence has shown that IBH works for patients and providers; however, the research was incomplete for vulnerable populations and local realities. Through the Sí Texas project, South Texas communities are producing specific information about how IBH can work for low-income, uninsured, Hispanic patients in Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs). Throughout 2019, nine research studies that are part of the Sí Texas project are being posted on the CNCS Evidence Exchange and on MHM.org. These studies establish effective, evidence-based models and practices ready to be adopted by other organizations, in communities with similar challenges.
Want to know more about IBH?
If you’re curious about the cost and health impact of Integrated Behavioral Health, here are some helpful online resources:
Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization with a focus on mental health resources and services, and policies that impact healthcare implementation and access in Texas.
Hogg Foundation for Mental Health – as part of The University of Texas system, the Hogg Foundation advocates for mental health solutions that go beyond clinical settings into communities.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a national resource for integrated health information.
Well Being Trust is a national foundation that seeks to improve mental, social and spiritual health through a sense of community well-being.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is a federal agency with programs that address health issues related to geographic and economic vulnerability, much like the communities served by the Sí Texas project. The site’s data warehouse allows you to search by state and county for demographic information, existing healthcare programs and workforce information, and more.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a federal agency that administers a wide range of healthcare-related programs and services, as well as regulations and laws governing healthcare. It administers and tracks community access to services and assistance.