According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 50% of people will experience mental illness in their lifetime, however only 44% of adults with a mental illness seek treatment. Mental health is the foundation of healthy people and communities. October 1-7, 2017 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Early intervention and support are crucial to long term recovery.

“Integrated health care is a holistic approach to health care in which mental and physical disorders are treated concurrently, recognizing that mental disorders must be treated with the same significance as physical disorders,” said Alejandra Posada, chief program officer at Mental Health America of Greater Houston. “Mental Health America of Greater Houston works to increase access and improve mental health care in the community, and engages providers both locally and statewide to advance the practice of integrated health care.”

Although physical and mental health are linked, our health care system addresses them separately. Individuals with behavioral health disorders often have physical health conditions, and vice versa. According to the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, chronic illnesses are often accompanied by behavioral ailments such as depression or anxiety. Additionally, individuals with mental illness are five times more likely to have a co-occurring physical health condition than those in the general population.

“Behavioral health issues are often presented first in a primary care setting, yet research shows that nearly half of behavioral health disorders go undiagnosed in primary care,” said Posada.

Studies show that treating physical and behavioral health in tandem can improve mental and physical health outcomes, reduce substance use, and decrease medical costs. Integrated health care aims to abolish this separation, an important step in providing access to and normalizing behavioral health treatment.

Houston is the host city, October 19 – 21, for the 2017 Collaborative Family Healthcare Association Conference, themed “To Integration and Beyond: Creating Solutions for a Connected, Sustainable Future.” It includes tracks on Practice, Programs, Policy, and Partnerships, and special sessions for training in Research and Evaluation.

 Mental Health America of Greater Houston, established in 1954 by philanthropist Ima Hogg, is the area’s longest serving mental health education and advocacy organization focused on shaping the mental health of people and communities in the areas of children and education, integrated health care, women, suicide prevention, and veterans.

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