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Integrated care brings together physical and mental healthcare

Integrated care brings together physical and mental healthcare
Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Being healthy means paying attention to body and mind. Gundersen Health System is making both these key aspects of health more readily available to patients, through its unique "integrated care" approach to wellness.

Integrated care is an expanding way to bring more services in mental healthcare to patients in Gundersen's service area, including its Minnesota family medicine clinics in La Crescent, Houston, Spring Grove and Harmony.

So, you might have seen a new face if you have visited Gundersen's Minnesota clinics this year. Jenni McHugh joined the care team at her clinics last December. But she is not a medical provider, nurse, or lab technician.

McHugh, MSW, is an integrated care specialist through Gundersen's Behavioral Health department. Her training is as a therapist and her expertise is in helping patients take care of their overall wellness.

"I'm kind of like a coach, cheerleader and helper all rolled into one," she says. "My job is to help patients figure out their health goals and find a way to reach them by partnering with patients and their providers."

"Being healthy is about taking care of both mental and physical health," she continues. "Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to start, or feel overwhelming to keep going. That's where I can help.

Patients looking for ideas can see me for help with anything from chronic pain and lifestyle changes, to anxiety and depression, or life stressors or even fear of needles."

There is no question there is a need for such services and integrated care helps meet the need, combining both physical and psychological care via a Gundersen primary healthcare provider to mental health counselors, such as McHugh.

It's something medical provider Melissa Fuhrmann, PA-C, sees as very beneficial to her patients and her practice Gundersen Spring Grove and Harmony clinics.

"Reaching health goals is about more than prescribing medications: it takes a holistic, patient-centered approach," says Fuhrmann. "Having Jenny (McHugh) in the clinic allows me to provide patients with a wide variety of effective tools to help them get to where they want to be in their health journey, and to do that close to home. She is someone I think all patients will probably meet at some point in their time in our clinics. I am so glad we have this wonderful service available here in our rural communities."

How does Integrated Care work?

Integrated Care helps address problems at their onset to prevent larger issues from arising. If a behavioral health issue is found during your primary care visit, staff can have you speak with a mental health provider such as McHugh, often the very same day. This near-immediate access is the cornerstone of Integrated Care and can be for problems ranging from insomnia, anxiety and depression to grief counseling, relationship problems and more.

Then, the behavioral health consultant partners with you, your family and your care team to provider shorter-term services and assessments, plus additional referrals should you need more specialized mental health care.

The benefits

  • Care is provided when and where you need it, often the same day you see your primary care provider. This means greater convenience for you as well.
  • It helps better link the connection between physical and psychological healthiness.
  • It can lower the cost of care by catching issues earlier.
  • You can experience improvements in your immediate and long-term health.
  • We can show you coping skills to help you manage stressors, so you can get back to doing the things you need and love to do.

Some more details

  • A referral is required from your primary care provider
  • It's open to children and adults
  • Allows up to four visits
  • Is available only at select clinics

Questions? Contact Gunderen Spring Grove Clinic by calling (507) 498-3302 or Gundersen Harmony Clinic at (507) 886-8888.

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