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Published on November 01, 2016

Bringing mental health into the mainstream

Catherine Schuman

PhD, Gundersen Integrated Care

We've all been there – those tough times when life throws you a curve ball. Maybe you're having difficulty managing a chronic illness such as diabetes or chronic pain, struggling with difficult childhood behaviors, or managing depression or anxiety.

For times like these, Gundersen Health System now offers Integrated Care that provides behavioral health services from the convenience of your primary care provider's office, a place you know and trust.

"The number one place people receive mental healthcare is in primary care," states Catherine Schuman, PhD, director of Integrated Care at Gundersen Health System. "Integrated Care is about acknowledging that mental health is an important part of overall wellness, good health and creating accessible behavioral health care."

Patients can benefit from learning new strategies to better manage acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, pain and insomnia. Parents can get support for implementing new parenting skills such as time outs, managing challenging eating behaviors and managing bedtime/sleep issues.

If you could benefit from Integrated Care, you can talk to a behavioral health consultant—often the same day as your primary care appointment.

"Our schedules are designed so patients receive care when they need it," says Dr. Schuman. "This [model of care] not only helps prevent larger issues from occurring but lowers the cost of care by reducing unnecessary appointments, hospital stays and emergency room visits."

During integrated care interactions, a behavioral health consultant will partner with you and your primary care provider to offer short-term behavioral health services. Care may include same-day treatment, scheduled assessments with treatment (typically one to four visits) or referrals if needed.

Patients are taught coping skills to manage stressors so they can get back to their normal lives more quickly.

"I spend a lot of time helping children and adults understand the connection between their emotional experiences and physiological [or bodily] responses to them. When patients understand physiologically what they're experiencing, they don't feel as overwhelmed," Dr. Schuman explains.

Integrated Care is currently available in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatric clinics in La Crosse and Onalaska, with plans to expand these services to most Gundersen primary care clinics in the future.

If you have questions about Integrated Care, talk to your primary care provider.

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