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Intermountain Mental Health Integration Program Awarded National 2017 Hearst Health Prize

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Intermountain Healthcare
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Seventeen years ago, Intermountain Healthcare created a Mental Health Integration program. The program makes mental health evaluation and services part of the routine care for all patients.

 

Intermountain was awarded the national 2017 Hearst Health Prize for its integration program.

For licensed clinical psychologist Ken Weigand, merging physical and mental health services makes perfect sense.

“Mental health professionals, such as psychologists and licensed clinical social workers, are literally in the same clinic as physicians and physician assistants and nurses and so forth," he said. "Instead of a physician recommending a person for behavioral health therapy or mental health services and then hoping that the patients connects with somebody out in the community, they can literally walk down the hall and introduce the patient they want to refer. Services are basically one stop shopping.”

The new program tracked tens of thousands of patients over a 10-year period to see how the program improved healthcare.

“I think what they found very positive results on a number of levels, both in terms of quality of care and the affordability of care," Weigand said. "From my perspective, being a clinician, the reason it’s so important and helpful is because there is just a huge overlap between many medical conditions and the behavioral health aspects that come with it. And in the past they’ve always been separated.”

The percentage doubled for patients screened or prescreened for possible depression, more than ten times greater than that of traditional physician practices nationally. For individuals receiving care through the program, emergency room visits dropped 23%, hospital admissions declined 10%, and primary care doctor visits declined 7%. 

Patients also reported that physicians were more sensitive to their emotional or mental health concerns and provided better overall quality of care under the Mental Health Integration approach.

“Just another part of the clinic services. It’s no big deal to go see somebody," Weigand said. "And that helps destigmatize a good deal of the mental health services we offer."