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SHAWN MAXWELL: Connecting mental health with primary care

Florence Morning News - 4/16/2018

Some health concerns in life are obvious and met with immediate attention: sudden chest pains call for a trip to the emergency department; a head cold or the sniffles get treated with a cold remedy from the local pharmacist.

But other health concerns are often overlooked or disregarded for their apparent lack of physical ailments ? especially when it comes to our mental health.

National statistics reported by the National Institute of Mental Health for 2014 estimate that more than 18 percent of all adults in the United States had some type of mental illness in the previous year and that one in every five people experiences a mental health illness in any given year.

That's an estimated 43.6 million adults and does not include patients living with a substance use disorder or individuals without a fixed home address or residing in institutionalized homes.

Mental health concerns affect all people ? the young, the old, the wealthy, the poor ? and all communities. Mental illness is associated with a lower use of medical care, reduced adherence to treatment therapies for chronic diseases and higher risks of adverse health outcomes. This reinforces the need to integrate behavioral health into primary care and patient-centered medical homes such as at HopeHealth.

Addressing mental health concerns also involves overcoming barriers, especially for non-English-speaking communities and minorities. These barriers include communication problems, cultural differences, beliefs and taboos, racial and ethnic identity, higher levels of mental-health associated stigma, access to culturally appropriate care and the availability of culturally aware staff.

HopeHealth's Making Connections aims to do just that. In the fall of 2015, HopeHealth received an award from the Movember Foundation, in partnership with the Prevention Institute, to address and improve the mental health and wellbeing of men and boys in several area communities, including Veterans and African-American male youth in Florence and Williamsburg counties.

HopeHealth has partnered with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Boys & Girls Club in Hemingway and SC Thrive to provide a variety of prevention services and activities to increase attention to the importance of mental health among young men and veterans and how communities can help these populations reach mental wellbeing.

The collaborative work among the partners is the essential component to ensure the messaging and the resources identified regarding mental health care reach the communities most in need of support. Such programs help foster an environment at HopeHealth that promotes effective communications between our providers and patients to address mental health needs.

Shawn Maxwell is the coordinator for the Making Connections Project at HopeHealth.


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