Being Left Out Hurts – Why Behavioral Health must be included in the healthcare strategy


According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2013, people with mental illness are more likely to have chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke than those without mental illness.  And, those individuals are more likely to use costly hospitalization and emergency room treatment. Lack of coordination between multiple care providers results in poor health outcomes and higher costs across health systems. Healthcare providers across all areas need to be working together in order to provide patients with optimal care.

Behavioral health stigma

While behavioral health conditions like depression and anxiety become more commonplace, some people still see them as fringe disorders and don’t recognize their effect on overall health. The Association for Psychological Science said just about half of individuals with a mental illness don’t undergo treatment, and this may be by choice. Another major problem is structural stigma in health organizations. Many medical groups don’t prioritize behavioral health. These institutions focus more on traditional medical issues instead of the growing need for behavioral care.

Integrating behavioral and primary care

The key to addressing behavioral health concerns is to create direct associations with primary care. Health Affairs blog recommended presenting behavioral treatments as a critical component of overall health to help both patients and care providers acknowledge the necessity of behavioral care.

Many government organizations look to extend resources to health organizations so they have tools necessary to deal with growing behavioral health issues. Federal regulators, health professionals, and community organizations need to make behavioral screenings and datasets part of complete patient profiles. If new resources allow organizations to restructure, they should begin recognizing the importance of behavioral health, training employees and volunteers, and implementing technology that provides complete visibility of patient needs. In the end, removing the disconnect between behavioral health and primary care professionals improves individual health outcomes and reduces healthcare costs. Lancet Psychiatry also reported investments in behavioral health resulted in life extension in the general population. It’s a win-win for everybody.


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