December 12, 2017
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Behavioral Health Homes: A New Approach to Whole Health

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Presented By Maine Behavioral Healthcare

Today the practice of “whole person care” is more important than ever. While it can be difficult to sort out exactly where we’re at emotionally, our bodies are always giving us clues. Physical tension, G.I. distress, and lethargy are often signs that our mental health is suffering. A new way to improve mental health, self-care, and overall well-being is to work with a team to manage your health.

Behavioral Health Homes are a coordinated set of health care services available to people who are eligible for MaineCare. These “Homes” are actually coordinated services designed to manage both mental and physical health. The service is designed for children and adults who live with mental illness and who have or are at risk of developing, ongoing health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.

Each client’s Behavioral Health Home team and their primary care provider work together to ensure health improvement. “This is an evolution in delivering services to improve overall health and a major shift in our role,” said Mary Jean Mork, VP of Integrated Care at Maine Behavioral Health. “There is a growing understanding that behavioral health is foundational to reducing costs and addressing overall population health, particularly for populations with high levels of need.”

Many clients have complex and costly psychological, medical and social challenges. Case managers not only focus on physical and mental health needs, but also help provide access to social services, community services, transportation, and other supports. They are also learning how to talk to clients about chronic conditions, like diabetes, and helping them change their behaviors, like eating right and exercising.

Healthcare professionals now understand the reciprocal relationship between mental health and physical health when diagnosing common conditions. Forms of anxiety, depression, or high levels of stress can have significant negative effects on the body. Most notably, we see clients with anxiety who often have chronic gastrointestinal problems. People who live with very high levels of stress are prone to chronic neck and shoulder pain.

The relationship between physical and emotional pain is a two-way street. It has been well established clinically that ongoing levels of depression tend to heighten our awareness and experience of physical pain in conditions like fibromyalgia and migraine headaches. There is also a concern for those who live with ongoing depressive disorders because they are at far greater risk for heart disease and osteoporosis.

Embracing a new culture of quality of life and chronic illness management will improve overall population health and significantly reduce costs. Working with a Behavioral Health Home team will increase your awareness of your holistic needs and your options for improved outcomes. Prevention of disease, restoration, and healing are more readily attainable when all of us are working together.

This related story demonstrates the importance of Behavioral Health Homes in managing chronic diseases: Nearly half of Maine in danger of diabetes.

Experts at Maine Behavioral Healthcare encourage all Mainers to research the best health care options available. We welcome your questions and look forward to serving you.

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