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Rosecrance partners with Crusader in effort toward integrated care

Partnership focuses on serving whole person

A new partnership between Rosecrance and Crusader Community Health signals important progress toward integrating behavioral health and primary health care to better serve the comprehensive needs of patients.

Rosecrance has embedded a mental health counselor at Crusader’s clinic on West State Street in Rockford to take on-the-spot referrals for mental health services from nurse practitioners and doctors who see patients for their medical issues. The next step is for Crusader to assign a staff member to the Ware Center to serve clients who go there for services but whose overall health could benefit from primary care services. Crusader officials say they intend to expand the program soon.

Will Holm, a licensed clinical social worker for Rosecrance, is the first staff to be assigned to the program full time. Holm sees up to a dozen Crusader patients daily for mental health assessments or to provide solution-focused brief therapy for conditions such as stress or anxiety. When necessary, Holm has immediate access to the psychiatrists at the Ware Center to consult on a patient’s medication needs. He can make referrals to the Center for individuals with severe mental illness in need of ongoing services.

The arrangement exemplifies a national trend toward integrated care, which means treating the whole person. The collaboration for what is being called “bi-directional care” is among less than a handful of such programs in the state.

“For so long, behavioral health services have been kept at arm’s length from primary care,” Rosecrance President and CEO Philip Eaton said. “Think of how much better we can serve patients who enter the doors at Crusader or Rosecrance if we truly listen to them and assess their emotional needs right alongside their physical health needs. This is very important to the continuum of care in our community.”

Research has shown that individuals with severe mental illness live an average of 25 years less than the average for the rest of the population. That alarming statistic is one of the driving forces behind the collaboration between Crusader and Rosecrance.

The patient referrals to Holm at Crusader are entirely voluntary. Crusader staff members report minimal patient resistance to seeing Holm and talking about their possible mental health needs.

“The demand is greater than we’d anticipated,” said Mark Kendall, Crusader’s chief operating officer. “Our primary care providers barely have time to diagnose the physical needs and a mental health diagnosis takes even longer.”

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