Psychologists in Primary Care

Integrated Primary Care combines medical and behavioral health services to more fully and efficiently address the problems of primary care patients. The vast majority of patients in primary care have physical ailments that are affected by stress, problems maintaining healthy lifestyles, unhealthy substance use, and/or a psychological disorder. Integrating behavioral health services into medical settings improves care and can decrease costs.

Patients referred for behavioral health services in primary care are highly complex with co-occurring medical and mental health conditions. These patients are frequently high healthcare utilizers, which drive up health care costs.

The top 10% of healthcare utilizers consume 33% of outpatient services and 50% of inpatient services.

In addition, 50% of high utilizers have mental healthor substance usedisorders. Distressed patients use 2X more health care yearly than non-distressed patients.

West Virginia residents have highest rates in the US for many chronic medical and mental health conditions.

More than 68% are obese or overweight, 27% are tobaccosmokers, 12.3% have diabetes, and nearly 20% report having a disability. Nearly 30% report poor mental health. Opioid misuse is involved in 93% of overdose fatalities.

Low-income populations have more behavioral health care needs, and higher health care costs. Integration of services projects have demonstrated reduced Medicaid costs up to 35% and reduced disability days.

Psychologists employed in primary care have enormous potential to help patients reduce the impact of many medical and mental health conditions. Providing psychological care in the medical setting where the patient is already engaged in treatment has numerous benefits, especially for older adults who are more likely to seek help in general medical settings than in specialized mental health care settings.

Working as a behavioral health provider in integrated primary care requires advanced training in health psychology. Training at the doctoral level is the national standard for psychologists and prepares psychologiststo perform the many complex tasks required in this setting, such as:

Consultation with physicians regarding interaction between mental and physical health in both inpatient and outpatient settings

Specialized assessments such as: medication misuse assessments, ADHD evaluations, dementia screens

Providing evidence based brief interventions and treatment of commonly occurring conditions such as depression, panic disorder, phobia, etc.

Behavioral Management of chronic health conditions such as Diabetes, Obesity, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Asthma, COPD