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PPMW: Tell us a little about yourself. First, introduce yourself, your title, and what you do at Planned Parenthood?

Dr. Ryan Montoya (RM):

My name is Dr. Ryan Montoya. I am a board certified family medicine physician and Program Director of Primary Care Services at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC. 

PPMW: What are some of the opportunities and challenges working at Planned Parenthood?

RM: The challenge and opportunity of bringing primary care to Planned Parenthood is that we want to take advantage of our name and brand awareness, at the same time, try and open people's minds to say, "We also offer things in addition to excellent access to abortion care and reproductive healthcare services." 

For example, on the day of your medical abortion, if you’re found to have blood pressure 10 points higher than it's supposed to be, we do not want to send you away, which is what we usually have to do at most affiliates. Now, we can send you next door to Primary Care. I manage your blood pressure, you come back in two days, and we can complete your medical treatment.

PPMW: Can you tell us what behavioral health is and how you're able to work with our patients?

RM: Behavioral health is an umbrella term for any mental health condition that a client or a patient wants to discuss with their provider. Diagnoses can include anxiety, depression, and certain mood disorders.

As a doctor, in the same way that if I were managing your heart, I'd also be thinking about managing your lungs. If I'm managing your body, I'm also thinking about managing your behavioral health. This can be done either in-person or by telemedicine. I’d estimate that about 90% of our behavioral health patients are telemedicine patients. It speaks to the patient's comfort with the technology, with the repeat visits, and with this format being an effective way to get care to folks.

There are advantages to treating behavioral health via telemedicine. For example, I can see what's going on in a patient's physical background, or whether or not they're keeping their house in order. You can get a sense of a lot of things that were never, ever possible with an in-person visit — things that only used to be available during old school house calls.

After meeting and talking with a patient, and learning more about what’s going on in their lives, I can suggest coping strategies and prescribe medications. I can also connect them with a therapist as those two areas of care — pharmacologic care and talk therapy — always work better together. Navigating the behavioral health care system can be tricky so I also try to help patients access the services they need.

PPMW: What does the long-term look like for folks who might be dealing with depression, anxiety, or other behavioral health issues?

RM: Some behavioral health providers believe that if a patient has a diagnosis, they should be on medication indefinitely. I was trained and I believe in the opposite of that, which is you should be on medication for as long as it takes for you to develop the strategies to go without it.

Medication allows you to recognize the stressors in your life and deal with those swings a little bit better. Once you develop better coping tools, whether it's on your own or with a behavioral health therapist, you’ll be better equipped to recognize and deal with the things life throws at you.

PPWM: What would you say to folks who are still on the fence and unsure if Planned Parenthood is the right place to get treatment for behavioral health care?

RM: It is definitely an advantage to come and take advantage of all the services that Planned Parenthood provides including everything from sexual and reproductive care, preventing heart disease and diabetes, cancer screening, weight loss, as well as behavioral health. It's more convenient because you won't have to go through the frustration of explaining your story every single time because we’ll know you already.

The most important thing to me and why I became a primary care provider — and what I stress with the rest of our team — is to get to know our patients. We do this by forming relationships and the longer we get to know you, the shorter and more effective the visits will be. After a few years of providing care, a 15-minute visit ends up being like a six-minute visit but with better healthcare overall. It may seem like I'm just trying to make conversation but really, every single component of these interactions leads to better health outcomes.

Make a behavioral health appointment with Dr. Montoya here!

Listen to “Healing After a Mess of a Year” — an interactive, live stream event with Dr. Montoya and PPMW health care providers talking about how to recognize anxiety, depression, and eating disorders and the real-world tools available to help tackle these challenges. Listen to the recorded live stream here

Tags: Anxiety, BehavioralHealth, depression, EatingDisorders, PrimaryCare