CONNECT had the distinct honor and privilege of meeting Intermountain Healthcare President and CEO, Dr. Marc Harrison earlier this year.  In an article published in late August 2017 titled, “It’s Past Time to Include Mental Health Into the Doctor’s Office Visit,” Dr. Harrision wisely acknowledges the high cost of treating mental illness as well as the enormous cost of leaving it untreated. “It affects our population’s health in ways that range from obesity to homelessness and addiction… Treating mental illness has traditionally been separate from treating physical illnesses. But that doesn’t really make sense, given what we know about both today.”

Dr. Harrison reports that beginning in 2000,  Intermountain began delivering integrated mental and physical health care in team-based clinic settings.  Here is how the Intermountain integration model works: When a patient visits a primary care clinic, she or he is asked to complete a screening questionnaire. If it suggests mental health concerns, the doctor discusses that with the patient. Mental health professionals are embedded in the clinic and can immediately interact and provide treatment, under the doctor’s guidance. There are no referrals needed or long waits to get help.

For example, with this team-based coordination, Intermountain screens 46% of patients for depression, a rate more than 10 times higher than in traditional physician practices nationally. Earlier detection of depression allows caregivers to provide medical and behavioral interventions earlier.

Based on Intermountain’s experience and findings, they project that the U.S. would save at least $4 billion a year in health care costs if it’s integrated care model was used nationally.

We applaud Dr. Harrison and Intermountain for moving the needle on this extremely critical issue.  Early mental health screenings in primary care settings can prevent later crisis, and provide patients with the appropriate care and resources to divert a mental health challenge or addiction from spiraling out of control.  CONNECT is excited to support Intermountain effort’s to further strengthen this necessary and important integrated care model.