Chesterton Tribune

Area agencies join forces to improve health care of mentally ill

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Porter-Starke Services, a mental health provider, and HealthLinc, a community health care provider, have completed their participation in a year-long project aimed at coordinating care for individuals with mental illnesses.

The two organizations were chosen to participate in a project conducted by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. In December, representatives from both agencies joined health care organizations from six other states in Washington, D.C. to present their findings.

The collaborative effort helped communities identify ways to coordinate care for their patients who suffer both physical and mental illnesses.

Porter-Starke and HealthLinc noted that nearly one in five Americans has a mental disorder and nearly two-thirds of people with mental illness do not get the help they need. Mental illness can also take a toll on people’s physical health, with a 2006 federal study revealing that persons with mental illnesses die 25 years younger than the general population, largely due to chronic medical conditions. Diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease are common medical conditions faced by those with serious mental illness. Often, the mentally ill are too debilitated to seek care from multiple providers for their mental and physical illnesses, according to Porter-Starke and HealthLinc.

As a result of participating in the project, HealthLinc screened more than 800 individuals for depression. It also created two behavioral health consultants in conjunction with Porter-Starke Services. “Participating in the National Council’s collaborative project showed us new possibilities for expanding access to comprehensive health care for mind and body,” said Beth Wrobel, CEO of HealthLinc, formerly known as the Hilltop clinic. “When organizations in the community work together, we can help people get better and live productive lives.” Bob Franko, vice-president of development and marketing, said the next step will be to work with all funding sources to show the effectiveness of collaborative care, while also establishing the necessary billing and payment systems. "It’s obvious that there is no health without mental health and vice versa,” he said.

Posted 12/30/2008