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May is Mental Health Month

Very few people go through life without any chronic health challenges. Cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, diabetes, mental illnesses, and more touch every family at some point. And often mental illnesses and other chronic conditions co-occur. People with cancer often have depression; people with schizophrenia often have diabetes; and people with chronic pain often have both physical and behavioral health challenges. The underlying environment – the “social determinants” of health – plays a role in the development of both physical and mental health conditions. Did you know that some common tools and strategies – such as animal companionship, humor, spirituality, work-life balance, and recreation and social networking – lead to improvements in both physical and mental health?

We asked Dr. DeeJay Donlin, who heads our Behavioral Health Clinic, to give some information regarding integrated health services at Orange City Area Health System….

Q: Integrated behavioral health services were started at Orange City Area Health System (OCAHS) in May 2015. During the last four years, how have services evolved?

Dr. Donlin: Providing behavioral health services at OCAHS was seen somewhat as an experiment since it was a new service line in the clinic/hospital. Over these last four years, I have been able to see well over 1100 different patients ranging in age from 2 to 88. Difficulties have varied from anxiety to depression to ADHD to psychosis to relationship conflicts to multiple medical issues (weight loss, pain management, etc.). Services have included evaluation, consultation and ongoing therapy. Individuals seeking service have included family members, employees and business/institutional leaders from multiple counties who have recognized the value of developing an adequate support system and utilizing skills for managing stress. As envisioned, the ability to work side by side with the medical providers has been very enjoyable and appreciated by both provider and patient. We attempted to create (and accomplished) a rather seamless set of services in which someone could come in for a medical issue, desire behavioral health services, and be seen quite quickly–sometimes even the same day.

Q: Have there been any surprises about the services provided?

D: Maybe not “surprised” but more “impressed.” Almost daily, I’m reminded about the level of care and compassion that the medical providers are giving to their patients. When first arriving, I was struck by the phrase “I take care of…” when primary care providers would be discussing a particular patient or family. What has impressed me is how genuine and involved providers can become in health care, not just health It’s been fun to be a part of that.

Q: Why will integrated behavioral health services continue to be important at OCAHS?

D: Providing behavioral health services within the clinic and hospital is extremely important since we know that at least 50% of all behavioral health disorders are typically treated in the primary care setting, and in fact, up to 70% of all primary care visits may be related to behavioral health needs. We also know that up to 80% of psychotropic medications are prescribed by primary care providers in the clinic/hospital setting. Additionally, we know that 30-50% of people who are referred for behavioral health services to a specialty facility outside of the clinic don’t make it to their first appointment. We want to continue to provide effective and comprehensive services as conveniently as possible for all of our patients.

Q: How can people make appointments?

D: Patients can call directly to OCAHS (712–737–2000) to set up an appointment or referrals can be made through their primary care provider.

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