Marianne Huff: This is what real care integration looks like

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Integrated care has been a topic in the health care environment for years, but it became more relevant with the signing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

The idea that mental health and physical health professionals should “talk to each other” about their shared clientele has become an emotionally charged topic for individuals with Medicare and Medicaid, their families, their supporters and for disability rights advocates.

One of the services that developed through the community mental health centers is case-management services. Case management is designed to help individuals with more severe mental illnesses navigate the community by linking them to services such as housing and health care and by helping with the application for governmental programs such as food stamps, Social Security Disability and/or SSI and Medicaid.

Case management IS integrated care, and it is far more personal than having an electronic health record that can talk to another EHR.

The solution is simple and does not involve making an overly bureaucratic and hard-to-navigate system more overly bureaucratic and hard to navigate. Integration simply means to communicate and to collaborate with community resources.

True integration focuses on the individual who needs assistance in navigating complex community systems including physical health care. And case management is a service that is uniquely tied to the community mental health system, because the core function has always been to keep individuals out of state and community psychiatric hospitals and in the community.

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