JANUARY 28, 2015, BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) – Overall good health and wellness has been defined as combining equal measures of mind, body and spirit.
Naval Hospital Bremerton’s Branch Health Clinic Bangor is helping patients achieve that balance by implementing an Internal Behavioral Health Program in the Family Health Clinic and offering behavioral health consultation service to those enrolled with the clinic.
The new service offers assistance when habits, behaviors, stress, worry, or emotional concerns and issues about physical or other life problems interfere with someone’s daily life.
“As a consultant to the provider, I am part of our clinic team. I am someone on the team a patient can talk to. We work as an integrated team thus being able to provide a more holistic approach to care. The benefit of me here is that…I’m here,” said Chalice Ledet, Internal Behavioral Health Consultant (IBHC), a licensed clinical social worker with specialty training, working as a member of the primary care team.
Having a consultant like Ledet adds an extra component of addressing the emotional health, habits and behaviors of a patient. IBHC are licensed professionals trained at assessing functional impairment in work performance, work relationships, family relationships, social activities, recreational/fun activities and exercise due to mental/emotional issues. Behavioral interventions and psychoeducation are provided at visits and statistics show that a patient’s overall functioning improves.
In many cases, the work of the IBHC serves as good preventative medicine by addressing a problem before it gets out of hand and cost savings to the government are a plus.
A big plus is that a patient can walk in any time without a referral for a quick consult by the IBHC to address their problem. Patients also benefit with the more holistic approach by not having to wait on a specialty care appointment.
“The patient can see the IBHC approximately four to six times for one issue, then as needed for different problems, without a referral from the primary care manager (PCM).
If a patient has deep seated or complicated issues and the patient needs more help, they will then be referred to Specialty Care,” Ledet said, noting that the PCM can give a warm handoff to the IBHC and they can be seen that same day or scheduled accordingly.
Many times the IBHC visits with the patient in the exam room with the PCM for a quick assessment and the process begins from that initial interaction. Because Ledet is embedded internally as part of the team, the PCM does not have to put in a consultation/referral note in the electronic medical records system (Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA)). The IBHC keeps the PCM informed of the findings and the plan after a visit, generally same day.
“I’m working to help the doctors so they can better care for their patients. Say a patient comes in to see the doc and there’s something else – anxiety or depression – going on. I can come in and be that someone to talk with and I can give them tools to help cope,” said Ledet.
Ledet attests that there are overlapping benefits having an IBHC right there during any appointment. The PCMs benefit by having the expertise of the IBHC being able to evaluate any concerns they encounter during an examination. The IBHC assists with giving their patients additional education and skills to increase coping with daily stressors and adherence to the PCM’s treatment plans, among the many other benefits.
“(An) IBHC is here to take the load off of a PCM by stepping in to address those who need that extra time in dealing with their physical and mental issues; who are needy and make repetitive PCM appointments; or are noncompliant and have behaviors that are blocking their progress. IBHCs are trained at probing deeper into underlying issues affecting overall health and can coach the patient toward wellness or at least let the PCM know where the lack of progress is coming from. This saves the PCM time and energy. Clinical pathways are being designed and will add the IBHC to the PCM’s electronic medical record template for various maladies aside from such problems of anxiety and depression,” Ledet said.
IBHCs can help reduce symptoms associated with various chronic medical conditions, or help patients cope better with such conditions as migraines and headaches, chronic pain, diabetes, asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), hypertension, and irritable bowel syndrome.
IBHCs can also assist with developing plans for behavioral change programs or lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, weight loss, alcohol use, and exercise and healthier eating.
IBHCs are also capable of helping with emotional or behavioral programs that include family or relationship problems, stress, depression and bereavement, anxiety, and anger problems.
An appointment with Ledet will last approximately 30 minutes and her goal is to provide brief, solution-focused interventions. BHC Bangor hours are 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The appointment line is (360) 315-4384.
“Clinic hours are wide open now. I’m not overbooked. We want our patients to know that I’m here for them and they can either call or walk in for an appointment,” Ledet said.