Tucsonans requiring treatment for mental illness can now receive both behavioral health care and primary health care at the Whole Health Clinic, an innovative Banner – University Medicine facility at 535 N. Wilmot Road.
The Whole Health Clinic, which opened Feb.1, is staffed by psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and therapists, family physicians, case managers, nursing staff and peer-support specialists, through a collaboration of Banner – University Medicine and the University of Arizona Departments of Psychiatry and Family and Community Medicine.
Integrated or whole-health care is now a requirement of the Arizona Department of Health Services Behavioral Health Division, which funds regional behavioral health authorities (RBHAs) throughout the state.
Individuals who are enrolled with Cenpatico Integrated Care, the new RBHA for Southern Arizona, have begun to receive care from Integrated Care Clinics throughout Southern Arizona, including the Whole Health Clinic. In fact, the Whole Health Clinic welcomes all patients regardless of type of insurance who feel they would benefit from receiving both behavioral health and primary health care in a single setting.
“Integrated care delivery is an idea that has been gaining ground across the country, improving lives and supporting efforts to reduce stigma,” said clinic Director Patricia Harrison-Monroe, PhD, vice chair and director of community outreach and clinical development at the UA Department of Psychiatry. “Tucson is not the first to offer this kind of service, but we are definitely at the forefront nationwide in applying it to those with serious mental illness.”
“Being able to put this into practice and meeting patients’ behavioral health and physical health needs in a responsive and welcoming environment is very exciting,” said Ole Thienhaus, MD, chairman of the UA Department of Psychiatry. “Not only does the Banner-UA connection offer the full panoply of state-of-the-art medical services, but we also cover the whole spectrum of behavioral health from prevention and crisis intervention through inpatient services and comprehensive community-based treatment,” he said.
“Being part of this innovative approach to health care affords us an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of people who seek our help.”
Studies have shown that people with serious mental illness have a significantly shorter life expectancy than other adults – 25 fewer years on average, said family medicine specialist Tammie Bassford, MD, medical director for the clinic’s primary care services.
The problem is worse in Arizona, where adults with serious mental illness live 32 fewer years, on average, compared with other adults, she said.
The likely reason for the disparity, nationally and in Arizona, is that people with serious mental illness often are living on low incomes, lack adequate information about healthy food choices, and have historically lacked access to regular medical care.
“I’m very excited that we are going to be able to offer this clinic to our patients with mental illness,” Dr. Bassford said. “I’ve seen how difficult it can be for patients to have to go to different clinics to get the care they need, and how they can get lost in the system.”
"The Whole Health Clinic is going to make it so much easier for people with serious mental illness to get the comprehensive, well-coordinated health care they need in one convenient location, added Myra Muramoto, MD, chair of the UA Department of Family and Community Medicine. “It's a huge step forward for our patients, and one that we believe is going to greatly improve their health and quality of life overall."
A key specialty service of the new Whole Health Clinic is the Early Psychosis Intervention Center (EPICenter), which the UA Department of Psychiatry has operated since 2010 at Banner – University Medical Center South.
The EPICenter, which serves patients aged 15-35 and is unique in Arizona, has been relocated to the new clinic on Wilmot. “Specialized intervention for patients early in their struggle with psychotic illness has been shown very effective in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life,” said Harrison-Monroe, who also directs the program.
The Whole Health Clinic’s general services include:
• Individual, group and family therapy
• Case management and referrals
• Certified peer-support providers
• Psychiatric evaluation
• Comprehensive physical health assessment and care
• Lab and pharmacy services
• Medication monitoring
• Benefit-eligibility assessment and enrollment assistance
• Substance-abuse services and referrals
• Court-ordered treatment monitoring
• Family psycho-education and support groups
Specialty services include:
• The Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) Center
• Neuropsychological assessment
• ECT outpatient treatment
• Perinatal and postpartum psychiatric care for women
Clinic hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m. to noon. Some walk-in options will be available for both behavioral health and primary-care appointments.
The phone number for the Whole Health Center is (520) 694-1234.
Free parking is available, and the clinic is close to major bus routes.