Nursing

Behavioral healthcare integration needs nursing support

Nurse Leader Insider, November 5, 2015

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Jennifer Thew, RN, for HealthLeaders Media , November 3, 2015

Mental illness often overlaps with medical illness. In an acute care setting, which group of providers should lead the patient's care? Nurses are natural integrators, but can't do it without support from leadership.

I have known five people who've lost their lives through suicide—one for each finger on my hand. I don't have enough digits to count the number of people I know who have dealt with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, alcoholism, or bi-polar disorder. And those are the ones who are willing to talk about it.
I'm sure many more friends and acquaintances silently cope with mental illness because of its social stigma, and there's data that supports my hunch. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four adults experiences mental illness in a given year.

Behavioral health is something worth talking about, and healthcare providers need to get in on the conversation if they want to improve patients' mental and physical health and provide value-based care, says Martha Whitecotton, RN, MSN, senior vice president of Behavioral Health Services at Carolinas Healthcare System.

"The real drive is starting around this now because of population health, because of accountable care organizations, and because of the way that people are going to be paid—placing their payment at risk for overall health and overall cost," she says. "It's forcing the conversation around what do we do about mental illness."

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