Integrated behavioral health care expands mental health services

ST. CLOUD – With the need for mental health services greater than ever, health officials are making sure their patients have the resources they need, when they need them.

CentraCare officials say they continue to see children and adults dealing with ongoing stress caused by the pandemic or various factors.

JOdy Kirchner is the Director of the Integrated Behavioral Health Program. She says before the pandemic, they offered this form of mental health care mixes care in a setting for medical conditions and behavioral health factors.

So if a patient is visiting their regular doctor and has a new diagnosis or behavioral problem, we are available to come into the exam room and meet with the patient and the doctor. Then we would take over the care while the provider continued to care for other patients.

Kirchner says that meeting with an IBH provider at your primary clinic is often more impactful for the patient, resulting in fewer appointments.

Barbara Skodje Mack is an integrated behavioral health provider. She says this team-based approach has many benefits.

It can reduce stigma and increase access and recognize how important our mental health is to our overall well-being.

Skodje-Mack says having a behavioral medicine specialist in primary care not only offers easier access, but also another person to share ideas and concerns with.

She says these services are often directly integrated with regular checkups to improve a person’s physical and mental health.

Kirchner says the goal is to continue expanding integrated behavioral health care throughout the CentraCare system.

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