By Allison Linville
“The accessibility of integrated behavioral health is one of the greatest benefits of the program,” said Kyle Stansbury, LCSW, describing one of the many benefits of the new integrated behavioral health program in Columbia Falls. As health care progresses and modernizes, this new approach to holistic treatment is beginning across the country. Integrated behavioral health (IBH) focuses on the entire patient – mind and body – and how to intertwine treatment of physical and mental health issues to provide more sustainable, longer lasting wellness. This program is currently in a pilot phase at the North Valley Professional Center in Columbia Falls, and is one of the first integrated approaches to health care in the Flathead Valley, operating with funds from a grant provided by the Montana Healthcare Foundation.
Stansbury is one of the providers from North Valley Behavioral Health (NVBH) who is developing the program at the North Valley Professional Center under the medical direction of J. Douglas Muir, MD and director of NVBH. “The goal of integrated behavioral health is to work collaboratively with health care providers to disseminate information that can help improve treatment outcomes and increase the number of patients served. Primary care providers see far more patients than we see and if we are able to help manage psychiatric issues more effectively and efficiently, it can affect more positive change than a single provider is capable of,” explained Dr. Muir.
Integrated behavioral health allows providers to approach the issue from multiple angles to treat the whole person. Stansbury said, “For a patient with a physical illness, it’s likely that there are underlying issues of tension or stress that accompany that illness such as migraines, insomnia, anxiety, depression, etc. Providers have found that patients achieve a more lasting recovery when all concerns are treated together through integrating behavioral health treatments with the traditional physical health treatment plan.”
Stansbury explains how it works in practice: “When a patient is being seen by one of our medical providers for a physical health issue, the provider will consider if IBH is a good fit for them, and talk with the patient before transitioning the patient to meet with me. While the patient is still in the clinic, I will stop by the exam room for a quick visit, which may include some stress management tips or a brief therapy discussion and establishing some measurable goals and tasks the patient can complete on their own.” The providers recommend this treatment style to patients as a wraparound approach to becoming healthy and well.
Stansbury explained that the IBH program hopes to eventually expand the program to more communities in the area. He said, “It’s a work in progress; we are trying to make it relevant for the North Valley Professional Center clinic and the greater Flathead Valley, and figure out how this practice best addresses the specific concerns of our patient population.”
Dr. Muir is glad to offer the expanded access to mental and behavioral health professionals for patients in the Flathead Valley. “If we can help to more effectively treat overall patient conditions and be more successful in treating mental illness, then this program is achieving its purpose,” stated Dr. Muir.
For more information about integrated behavioral health, contact North Valley Behavioral Health at (406) 862-1030 or the North Valley Professional Center at (406) 892-3208 or visit nvhosp.org.
First published in 406 Woman magazine, October-November 2017