National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI's Recommendations for States and the Federal Government

3. Integrate Mental and Physical Health Care

Where We're Failing

Studies repeatedly document the link between mental and physical wellness: individuals with serious mental illnesses have a higher risk of serious medical problems and often die prematurely. And yet, NAMI was unable to find a single state mental health system with comprehensive, integrated, and preventive action (or outcome measurement) related to wellness and survival.

  • Many people with serious mental illnesses lack access to medical care, particularly high-quality care.
  • Psychiatrists and mental health professionals often fail to focus on the general health concerns of their patients; in primary care settings, mental health problems often go undiagnosed or untreated due to a lack of training and ongoing stigma.
  • There is a substantial lack of cross staffing, communication, and coordination between mental health and other medical professionals.
  • A number of states do not permit providers to bill Medicaid for mental health and general health care services on the same day.

Taking Action

Expand Pilot Programs that Link Physical and Mental Health

  • New Hampshire's In Shape program, for example, helps individuals with serious mental illnesses address physical health risks associated with their medications.
  • Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Oregon are posting nurses at community mental health centers, linking their record systems with physical health providers, offering smoking cessation programs, and screening individuals for emerging diabetic concerns.

Other Recommendations for Improving Integration of Care

  • Increase coordination of mental health care and general health care by, for example, locating primary care physicians at mental health centers or alternatively locating psychiatrists and other mental health professionals at general health clinics.
  • Provide coverage of preventive care in private and public health insurance plans and increase use of health and wellness programs.

Continue to recommendation 4: Promote recovery and respect  >>

"[Recovery means] functioning normally within society without mental health issues proving to be a barrier."