Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care

When people think of integrated behavior health and medical care, they likely think about a primary care office with an embedded behavioral health professional. “What’s a little harder is the other way around,” Lee said. “That is, taking primary care and integrating it into behavioral health.”

He noted that his team now provides universal opt-out screening for hepatitis C for patients receiving a diagnostic assessment. “What we found is, for our substance use disorder patients, approximately a third of them are positive for hepatitis C. So they’re in a situation where their liver is at risk potentially from this virus. It’s curable and they didn’t know they had it. But we were able to find it and identify it and put together a treatment plan.”

Another gap Lee is seeking to fill is for patients who have a substance use disorder and are being released from a hospital with other medical needs. “The hospital has a difficult time discharging them,” he said. “Why? This gets back to professional stigma -- they can find nursing homes that will take care of hanging the IVs for the antibiotics. But they cannot find nursing homes who will also provide Suboxone or Vivitrol and medication-assisted treatment modalities, as well as the therapy needed for substance use disorder.”

Likewise, in-patient behavioral health treatment centers may offer the Suboxone, but not the IV for antibiotics.

Lee believes Signature Health has found a solution in what he calls an “enhanced residential treatment program,” which will provide treatment for the medical and behavioral health issues, as well as counseling.

In the Q&A portion of the VITALS program, moderated by WKYC senior health correspondent Monica Robins, Lee discussed his own addiction challenges and recovery as a teenager that inspired his passion to help other people on their journeys to recovery.

Watch VITALS with Jonathan Lee

Sign up for next VITALS program with Yoleetah Ilodi, M.D., assistant dean of diversity at NEOMED, internist and geriatrician at Summa Health, at noon, Thursday, Feb. 2.

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