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January 3, 2013

Grants to fund Bassett mental health programs

Bassett Medical Center is undertaking a project that will integrate mental health services into the primary care setting and train primary care providers to screen for behavioral health disorders that can adversely impact a patient’s health, according to a media release from Bassett.

This approach to identifying and treating mental health issues will initially be offered in health centers in Schoharie, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego and Herkimer Counties and is funded by a combination of foundation and government grants totaling $432,812, the release stated.

“There has been a tremendous unmet need for quality mental health services across central New York, so we’re grateful for the variety of funds to help get this new program underway,” Bassett Medical Center Chief of Psychiatry Celeste Johns, M.D. said in the release. 

In the U.S., half of the care for common mental health disorders is delivered in general medical settings, emphasizing the role of primary care providers in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. For this reason, the World Health Organization has identified the integration of mental health into primary care as the best way of addressing the burden of mental health conditions and has noted its urgent importance. 

According to the release, both the federal Healthy People 2020 Objectives and the New York State Health Improvement Plan/Prevention Agenda for 2013-2017 identify increased depression screening and referrals in primary care as a key strategy for improving access to care by children and adults and preventing substance abuse, depression and other mental illness.

With the new grant awards, Bassett is in the process of hiring mental health care coordinators and licensed clinical social workers to help integrate physical and behavioral health care services for patients. These professionals will develop mental health screening instruments and tools for use by primary care providers and will provide training to primary care providers on how to use these tools in the clinic setting. Mental health workers will also be hired to provide direct mental health services to patients. 

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