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May is recognized as Mental Health Month and an important time to remember the importance of taking care of mental health, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics offers a unique way to treat behavioral health through a team-based model of care called Collaborative Care.

Collaborative Care closes the gap between mind and body and focuses on health and wellness through comprehensive "whole-person care." This model of care brings behavioral health services to primary care to address problems at their onset. If an issue is identified during a primary care appointment, a behavioral health provider is brought in to offer short-term behavioral health services, assessment and referrals for additional support.

Patients engaged in Collaborative Care have a better understanding of the connection between emotional experiences and the body's response to them. They learn coping skills to manage stress and see improvement in both short- and long-term health.

Collaborative Care also is an effective way to change the stigma surrounding mental health, increase access to behavioral health resources and can lower the cost of care by preventing more significant issues that could lead to additional appointments, hospital stays and emergency room visits.

Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics has two collaborative care providers offering mental healthcare: psychologist Joni Downs, PhD, and counselor Nicole Steldt, LCSW. Both are part of the nine-provider primary care team.

"For someone to feel their best, their medical and mental health care needs must be met," Steldt said. "We treat our patient's mental health needs the same as we would for their physical needs to promote optimal wellness."

"We know that patients do not present their illness as physical versus mental. Patients come to us as a whole person," Dr. Downs said. "Having the right care at the right place at the right time is the ultimate goal of this model of care."

Behavioral health providers can help address issues such as insomnia, chronic disease self-management (including diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity), anxiety, depression, fear of needles, stress, grief or loss, medication changes, pain management, relationship concerns and LGBTQ+ and gender identity.

If you have any questions, please talk to your primary care provider at Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics by calling (608) 775-0364.


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