Mental Health System 'Close to Fracture'

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , July 7, 2011

Hospital systems, as well as physicians, also must address the evolving economics in mental healthcare. As an example, the Stormont-Vail West Hospital, in Topeka, KS, recently began to try to fill the void created by the closure of two psychiatric hospitals in the area. "When I think about the future of psychiatric care, I'm worried because of the budget cuts to community mental health centers," Julie DeJean, administrative director for behavioral health services at Stormont-Val Health Care, told the Topeka Capital Journal. "We could end up taking care of patients who don't have services anywhere else."

Some hospital systems are taking steps to improve psychiatric care within their buildings. The Mineral Area Regional Behavioral Health Center in Farmington, MO, has initiated a geriatric unit and adult unit under a new behavioral health center for improved psychiatric treatment in the community.

Co-existing conditions wrapped around mental health issues of patients are among the crucial problems healthcare systems face as they embark on healthcare reform, according to Newton.

 "I don't think (mental health)" is on the healthcare radar across much of the country, says Newton. "It's a perplexing issue. It is something difficult to diagnose, a little amorphous. When someone has diabetes, you look at the glucose levels. There is no quantitative assessment for mental health."

"I just think people tend to forget that mental health conditions are often co-existent with other problems, and the country's healthcare system does not easily accommodate the treatment of mental illness," Newton says.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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