BEHAVIORAL HEALTH NEEDS IN PRIMARY CARE

In addition to high rates of behavioral health disorders such as depression and anxiety presented in primary care, there are high rates of substance abuse and multiple health behavior change needs. For the majority of patients presenting these needs, primary care is the only setting in which they will participate in treatment. For them, it is behavioral health services in primary care, or no care at all.

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In a study of a representative group of patients in adult primary care, 38.6% had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.


Patients coping with stresses of poverty and trauma have rates of mental health and substance abuse needs 2-3 times those of the group studied above.


People coping with chronic illnesses have higher rates of behavioral health needs, particularly depression, compared to healthier patients, and depression makes it harder for them to take care of their chronic illnesses.


In primary care, the majority of physical complaints (74%) are not explained by findings of physical pathology. That is because “people with psychological distress present the majority of the time with unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches or backaches.”

Blount, A. (1998). Introduction to Integrated Primary Care, in A. Blount (Ed.), Integrated Primary Care: The Future of Medical and Mental Health Collaboration, W.W. Norton, New York.

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