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How Physicians Can Help Ease Mental Health Provider Shortages

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, April 17, 2014

CHS has rolled out its new behavioral health model in one practice, a five-physician family practice in Mint Hill, NC, a suburb of Charlotte. At this location, physicians will hone their skills at screening patients.

"We're not screening everyone, we don't have the resources to handle that onslaught of volume," says Whitecotton. "We're relying on patients who self-identify or a provider, upon evaluation, identifies a problem."

Patients who are prescribed anti-depressants will also be screened. If their screening indicates further diagnosis is needed, the patient will be moved out of an exam room and into another room where the behavioral health team can be accessed for a diagnostic interview.

Drugs and dosage are decided there, and the patient is given a health coach who will call "at prescribed intervals" to make sure the medication is being taken. "The health coach is a safety net," says Whitecotton, who estimates that CHS will eventually have 40 health coaches when the initiative is fully up and running at all of the primary care practices.

Patients also have access to online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Whitecotton says CHS can offer eight online CBT treatments for the price of one face-to-face appointment.

"We're striving to do things that are economically viable," she says.

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