Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
Most wouldn’t be surprised to hear that social isolation and loneliness have been linked to increased mental health challenges during COVID-19. National statistics reflect approximately 47% of people sheltering in place reported stress, depression, substance disorders, or other mental health impacts. Add wildfires, smoke, power outages, loss of business, loss of income, and fear of job security and it is easy to understand why people are struggling.
Behavioral health refers to an individual’s psychological well-being and ability to function in everyday life. It may include mental health disorders, psychiatric issues, marriage and family counseling, substance use disorders and more. Counselors, social workers, therapists, nurses, nurse practitioners, psychologists, and psychiatrists help manage patients’ behavioral health needs. Treatment often includes therapy, counseling, and medication.
Low-acuity (severity of an illness) behavioral health needs are the most common. These patients are able to function socially and professionally without ongoing support, but benefit from early intervention and prevention strategies. Patients with moderate-acuity needs often have trouble functioning socially and professionally. They require low-level ongoing support to improve functioning, facilitate self-management, and prevent symptom escalation. Those with severe and persistent behavioral health needs require constant support to allow for semi-independent functioning.
According to the National Advisory Board, behavioral health conditions affect one in four Americans each year. Approximately 70% of patients with a behavioral health condition have a medical comorbidity (the coexistence of two or more disease conditions). Additionally, “deaths of despair” (from alcohol, drugs or suicide) have more than doubled since 1999. Less than half of patients receive treatment.
Connection to care is important, but there are often barriers that make patient management difficult. Some are out of an individual’s control such as provider shortages and limited access to reliable treatment. However, even when services are available, patients are often reluctant to use them. They cite concerns such as stigma, high cost, time for appointments and inconsistent insurance coverage.
Hospitals and health systems provide essential behavioral health care services to millions of Americans every day. For years, behavioral health was largely ignored when it came to determining the factors involved in physical health. Primary care physicians traditionally shied away from considering emotional or mental health as a root cause of chronic diseases. Yet, data show that the two are closely linked. Fifteen to 30% of people with diabetes also have depression. Research also shows that up to 33% of individuals suffering a heart attack later experience depression. Depression affects 15 to 25% of people with cancer.
The great news is there are resources available. In 2016, a collaborative venture between Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Nevada County resulted in the opening of the Crisis Stabilization Unit located next to the hospital’s emergency department. In addition, a Social Outreach Coordinator conducts depression screenings in the community. Nevada County’s Behavioral Health Department offers many resources. Anew Day, a local nonprofit, provides counseling and resources. For more information, dial 211 for more information and to be connected to local services.
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