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Westside Health Center Receives Grant to Provide Mental Health Counseling

As California continues to prepare for implementation of health care reform, providers have embraced a new emphasis on the importance of patients receiving all the services they need in one location.

With that philosophy in mind – and thanks to a grant awarded by the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County – PPMM’s Westside Health Center will launch a pilot program to provide patients with mental health counseling to complement its reproductive health and primary care services.

Starting in the fall of 2012, the Westside health center will be staffed with a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who will help patients navigate mental health issues ranging from family communication to intimate-partner violence to substance abuse.

“Mental health and physical health are linked and should not be separated,” explained Dr. Jennifer Hastings, who sees patients at Westside. “The connection between stress and basic health is so obvious. We should be treating both.”

Integrating behavioral health services into primary-care settings has been shown to improve patients’ health and reduce total health care costs. A Kaiser Northern California study showed that introducing behavioral health services along with primary care resulted in a 35 percent reduction in in-patient costs, 39 percent reduction in emergency room costs and 26 percent reduction in total medical costs.

Many of our patients are low-income and face constant daily life challenges including job stress and family pressures as well as poor diet and exercise. PPMM clinicians have become adept at recognizing when patients are depressed, anxious or facing critical domestic and employment issues. Now, clinicians at Westside will be able to refer patients to someone on-site to talk to about their emotional health and how it may be directly related to conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, substance abuse or other risk-taking behavior.

“More and more working people don’t have access to these kinds of services and wouldn’t even think of reaching out to a therapist,” Hastings said. “They’re more worried about putting food on the table and shoes on their kids’ feet.” The new Westside program will give patients and their families a better chance of getting – and staying – healthy.

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Westside Health Center Receives Grant to Provide Mental Health Counseling