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'Health homes' provide 1-stop shopping for mental, physical health

If someone in Missouri is living with one chronic health issue, there is a good chance they have another condition as well. This is especially true for those dealing with serious mental illness. A 2006 report from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors concluded that mental health patients died 25 years earlier than the general population, on average.

People with serious mental illness are disproportionately likely to also be living with diabetes, hypertension and lung disease. Though they need treatment for both their physical and mental ailments, mental illness can interfere with one’s ability to coordinate one’s medical care, especially when you must go to several different clinics.

Joe Parks, a psychiatrist who now runs Missouri’s Medicaid agency, saw that such siloed care, where one patient might go to several doctors, none of whom were communicating with each other, was not helping patients’ health as much as it could be. So he helped develop an integrated approach: a way for people to get their mental and physical health care in a single place.

Today, thanks in part to Parks’ efforts, there are now two “health home” programs in Missouri. One of them is for community mental health centers. With 27 behavioral health homes in the state, that program has helped approximately 21,000 patients statewide improve their health, sometimes dramatically. For example, patient hospitalizations dropped 9 percent, and hypertension patients were measured with normal blood pressure 41 percent more often.

These results mean an improved quality of life for many people dealing with multiple health challenges, by making their care easier and more convenient to receive.

Source: KBIA-FM, “Missouri Integrates Mental and Physical Health Care, Saving Money, Improving Health,” Bram Sable-Smith, Oct. 23, 2015

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