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How Physicians Can Help Ease Mental Health Provider Shortages

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, April 17, 2014

By integrating a behavioral health team and a telemedicine component into all 250 of its primary care practices, Carolinas HealthCare System is trying to head off a potential behavioral health crisis in doctors' offices and emergency departments.

Mental health deserves, but fails, to garner the same amount of attention that guns get whenever there is a mass killing involving a firearm. The mental health question is asked, but never really explored in mass media the same way that guns and the laws that govern them are.

Maybe the television talking heads can't find two experts to talk about this complex issue because there is a nationwide shortage of mental health providers. Or maybe it's too complicated to fit into a 30-second sound bite.

Whatever the reason, emergency departments around the country are seeing patients whose behavioral needs are not being met at increasing rates. The growing shortage of mental health providers, services, and facilities is national, but one health system is trying to head off impending crises in primary care offices.

Carolinas HealthCare System has begun integrating a behavioral health team into all 250 of its primary care practices. The initiative comes on the heels of CHS opening an inpatient psychiatric facility, Behavioral Health-Davidson, serving the Charlotte area, where the nonprofit integrated health system is based. The 66-bed psychiatric hospital also includes an adjoining outpatient clinic.

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