Why Behavioral Health is a Huge Opportunity

Behavioral Health

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Individuals with mental health disorders tend to have higher mortality rates in the United States as opposed to the general population. Therefore, factoring in the behavioral needs of the patient population is crucial. In the following research study of patients with high hospital usage, psychiatric and substance use disorders were assessed among a population of patients: 90% of the patients suffered from a psychiatric or substance use disorder. 

There is a growing workload among primary care providers in the United States. Likewise, the demand for healthcare delivery centered around patient satisfaction, better health outcomes and lower costs is greater than ever. Patient dynamics are complex in the primary care setting as many individuals suffer from psychiatric disorders, particularly depression related to their condition. This makes addressing behavioral health complications a top priority. The integration of behavioral health providers such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers in the primary care settings will induce positive outcomes among patients and families. 

Behavioral health providers mainly treat psychiatric conditions in the primary care setting. Primary care providers lack the proper training to manage psychiatric conditions among patients and that can cause frustration among both parties: the provider and the patient. Thus, behavioral health providers can help their primary care colleagues in assessing the behavioral complexity of patients’ mental health conditions. By bringing additional expertise and insight into a patient’s condition, primary care physicians can build on the relationship between provider and patient which will eventually result in better patient/family engagement. 

Behavioral Health Access in Skilled Nursing Facilities

Among other challenges caused by COVID-19, one was higher rates of behavioral health conditions among seniors coupled with lack of access to behavioral health care, especially among those in skilled nursing facilities. However, things are changing for the better as now more organizations are opting for the integration of mental health and substance use disorder care into their long-term care facilities. One such example is the Catholic Care Center. 

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In the following article, Cindy LaFleur (Executive Director at Catholic Care Center) mentions that,  

There’s always been a strong need, but as we see the baby boomer population [aging], it’s growing even more and I think it’s a real unmet need in our sector of nursing homes.”

Research shows that minor or major depression is common in about 30% of nursing home residents. However, obstacles remain among nursing facilities in providing basic behavioral health services to their residents. The Catholic Care Center addresses this challenge by setting up an acute geriatric behavioral health facility on its campus. This could serve as a model in the future for others in the industry. Behavioral health resources are very important for the health and well-being of residents at facilities. 

Cindy LaFleur sums it up nicely:

A behavioral health facility on campus, in theory, will make it easier for seniors to transition to care, additionally, SNF residents requiring acute mental health care can potentially avoid a costly and stressfully long trip to the emergency room” 

My whole goal is to de-stigmatize that whole aura around behavioral health – that someone can’t live in a setting because of their behaviors. No, we have to adapt to those behaviors.”

The U.S federal government has also directed its attention to behavioral health efforts in skilled nursing facilities. The Department of Health and Human Services in May offered a $15 million three-year federal grant to address this issue. The funding was allotted in order to establish a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration program (SAMHSA) that caters to the behavioral health care needs of residents in nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities. 

In the words of CMS Administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure,

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This grant and our partnership with SAMHSA provide access to prevention and treatment for substance use issues, mental health services, crisis intervention, and pain care. Making behavioral health care a priority in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities supports a person’s whole emotional and mental well-being, and promotes person-centered behavioral health care.”

Behavioral Health In Home Health Settings

Likewise, in home health settings, many individuals, especially seniors, are vulnerable to various behavioral and mental health issues. There is a greater likelihood of behavioral health related challenges as we age and certainly more if they are left unaddressed. 

In home health settings, providers are not available in terms of giving care around the clock, this makes it the patient’s responsibility to adhere to the clinician’s instructions. This would prove more difficult in case the patient suffers from cognitive impairments, behavioral issues or depression as they will struggle to follow instructions left behind by their provider. This will pose a direct challenge to the patient’s recovery and overall well-being. 

In simpler words, patients’ experiences of home health services are likely to be affected negatively in case they feel poorly, sad, anxious or hopeless.  

Luckily, home health care agencies can work their way around this by training team members to better understand the behavioral health needs of patients. Communication always factors in and should be clear between provider and patient so that a patient’s feelings aren’t that easily overlooked. 

Hucu.ai is one communication tool that bridges the gap and strengthens the relationship between both provider and patient through constant and more effective means of secure communication!

Better understanding and better communication over behavioral health issues among patients/providers will inevitably result in better self-care among them.

Behavioral Health: A Huge Opportunity

Behavioral health services have been in demand long before COVID-19. However, the pandemic has had a massive toll on the mental and behavioral health status of most individuals in the United States. As a consequence, behavioral health organizations have seen a sharp rise in demand for their services. More home health providers are now looking to set up a behavioral health division to better address the lack of mental health support for seniors. 

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Katherine Vanderhorst is President of C&V Senior Care Specialists. She mentions in the following article

Prior to COVID-19, if you looked at the U.S., less than probably 10% or 20% of the agencies provided behavioral health care,” she said. “We’ve had a real resurgence of people interested in providing that.”

The implementation of behavioral health services across the continuum of care offers several benefits. It offers the prospect for potential growth from a business perspective. Still, challenges remain for health providers looking to integrate behavioral health practices. Staffing is a big one, as nurses with the right type of experiences are needed. Turnover rates are especially high among this nursing population, as behavioral health nurses encounter patients that require greater attention and care.

The delivery of behavioral health services by home health providers serves existing needs of the patient population that spans the entire country. Savvy operators are integrating behavioral health into their practices to better meet their clients’ needs.


The Role of Behavioral Health in Optimizing Care for Complex Patients in the Primary Care Setting

Characteristics and behavioral health needs of patients with patterns of high hospital use: implications for primary care providers

Nursing Home Operators Increasingly Investing in Mental Health, OUD Services. Laura Lovett. August 15, 2022

WHAT DOES BEHAVIORAL HEALTH HAVE TO DO WITH HOME HEALTH? By Katherine Vanderhorst, President, C&V Care Specialists. March 14

Why Home Health Providers should consider offering behavioral health services. Joyce Famakinwa. April 25, 2021

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