Researchers estimate that one in four adults in the United States has a diagnosable mental illness. Behavioral health issues often impact a patient’s ability to manage – and can even worsen – his or her physical illness.
“Some patients with a physical illness also have a mental health condition that complicates their recovery and coping skills,” says Rachel Chaddock, Executive Director of the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Greater Lowell.
Locally, the need for additional behavioral health services has been highlighted in the Greater Lowell Community Health Needs Assessment commissioned by Lowell General Hospital in partnership with the Greater Lowell Health Alliance (GLHA). Consumers and providers in Greater Lowell consistently rank mental health services at the top of healthcare needs.
Recognizing this need, the VNA of Greater Lowell applied for and received a grant from the Circle Health Ball for Community Health Initiatives last year. This funding supported the development of the VNA of Greater Lowell Behavioral Health Home Care Program – including program policies, community outreach, intensive staff education, patient materials and continuing consultation from C&V Senior Care Specialists, Inc., national consultants in behavioral health home care.
Patients with persistent sadness, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia are being offered care in their own homes by VNA of Greater Lowell clinicians, in close coordination with the patient’s psychiatrist and primary care physician. Patients with both mental and physical illnesses, who have difficulty leaving their home, are receiving specialized care for all of their health challenges.
The program is focused on helping patients and families understand the illness and what they can do to relieve symptoms, manage medications, increase healthy living habits, develop coping skills, avoid emergency care and connect with sources of strength and hope.
“Mental illness is a chronic disease – like diabetes or arthritis or a heart condition,” says Cynthia Roche, Clinical Director, VNA of Greater Lowell. “Managing a chronic disease requires patient and family education, attention and care from healthcare providers, and support in meeting the challenges of daily life. We deliver a message of hope as we help our
patients become more independent, safe and confident.” Psychiatric home healthcare is a Medicare benefit and also covered under most health insurance plans.
“As a member of Circle Health, we’re now able to offer our patients more comprehensive services; we’re coordinating care with their physician and we’re connecting them to other community services,” says Roche. “For us as clinicians, it’s very exciting to be a part of this new era of Complete connected care.”
For more information about VNA of Greater Lowell’s Behavioral Health Home Care Program, contact Cynthia Roche at 978-805-2655.