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Robert R. Cawley, D.O.

Dover, NH 03802

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Mental Health Services: Behavioral Health Offered at Primary Care

A primary care provider is in the exam room with a patient who is emotional about a new diagnosis. In a new model for behavioral health care being piloted at Wentworth Health Partners Internal Medicine, this medical provider could call a behavioral health specialist working down the hall to help the patient address their anxieties in real time, instead of waiting for a referral and appointment.

This pilot project is part of Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s innovative effort to integrate behavioral health services into its Wentworth Health Partners primary care offices. Today, psychiatric nurse practitioners and licensed behavioral health specialists work alongside providers in four primary care practices to handle referrals from patients, allowing for a more holistic approach to the patient’s care. 

“For a preventative model of health care to work it must focus on both the body and the mind,” says Kellie Mueller, MEd, Director of Behavioral Health. “The integrated behavioral health model embraces and encourages this approach.”

Mueller explains: “Medically, we can do everything right to help a patient manage his diabetes, but if we don’t also address his depression, he may not adhere to the treatment plan.”

One in four Americans is affected by a mental illness each year. Anxiety, depression, insomnia and substance use disorders, among others, are not uncommon. That’s why access to mental health services ranks among the top healthcare needs identified by our Community Health Needs Assessment year after year.

The stigma associated with seeking mental health care also is beginning to diminish, especially as programs integrated into the primary care office improve access to care. In 2017, Wentworth Health Partners integrated behavioral health specialists conducted more than 5,500 patient visits. Wentworth Health Partners Great Bay Mental Health saw close to 10,000 patient visits.

“Wentworth-Douglass is committed to developing new and richer behavioral health services,” says Mueller. “Working with statewide initiatives and local partners, we will continue to thoughtfully grow our programs to help meet the mental health and substance use disorder needs in the community.”

Learn more about how the WDH integrated mental health services can care for your needs with an innovative, holistic approach.