A Team Approach to Behavioral and Mental Health
September 30, 2022
North Conway, NH – Behavioral health has become a growing concern affecting tens of millions of adults and youth in the United States each year. Memorial Hospital offers integrated behavioral health services for patients who are dealing with a variety of common mental health challenges, psychiatric illnesses, and more.
“At Memorial Hospital, we take on a team approach,” says Karen Chase, psychiatric nurse practitioner at Memorial Hospital. “We work closely and in collaboration with primary care to ensure all of patients’ medical and mental health issues are addressed. The mind and body are so connected and you can’t treat one without treating the other.”
According to the American Medical Association, integrating behavioral health services into primary care is an effective approach to meeting patients’ mental and physical needs. Memorial Hospital has been using this innovative approach for several years. Melissa Kanter, Behavioral Health Director and psychiatric nurse practitioner, Karen Chase, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and Nancy Lohmiller, licensed clinical social worker, see patients at Memorial in their familiar, primary care setting.
“Our services are embedded in primary care,” explains Kanter, “but we also offer consults to any patients throughout the hospital as needed. I see patients from Oncology, Women’s Health, Med-Surg, even the Emergency Department. It’s a great way to quickly respond to our patients needs and get them connected to support. This approach is really adaptive and flexible.”
Memorial’s providers in all departments can refer patients to the behavioral health team if they identify their patient is in need of additional support. “We are here to help people in our community identify and treat their mental health disorders and establish a trusting, empathetic relationship with all patients,” explains Chase. Memorial’s behavioral health providers use a variety of screenings and tools including depression and anxiety screenings, psychiatric evaluations, counseling, mental health services, and medication management.
Kanter and Chase typically see patients with more acute needs, while Lohmiller sees patients facing a range of challenges. Lohmiller engages her patients in creating their own treatment plan. “It means the patient is directly involved in creating their own treatment plan based on their specific goals. It allows the patient to use their strengths and interests,” says Lohmiller.
Lohmiller is launching a group therapy session set to begin sometime this fall. The focus will be on proactive strategies to improve mental health. “I want managing your mental health to feel more approachable,” says Lohmiller. “Especially for older adults who often feel shame and stigma. I want my patients to understand that you don’t need to be in a crisis to receive support, you can be proactive rather than reactive.”
The behavioral health team reflects regularly on how they can have a bigger impact in the community. Kanter is involved in a multi-year suicide prevention grant in collaboration with local schools and public health initiatives. “This community work is aimed at children through young adulthood,” says Kanter. “We are working towards targeting younger kids age 9-13. I work with schools, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Carroll County Coalition for Public Health and other community stakeholders such as law enforcement and religious institutions. This younger age range is important because we are seeing more suicides across the country among really young people. We have to give kids and families the tools they need before they find themselves in crisis.”
Behavioral health services look different for different patients. Some patients need only a few counselling sessions to set goals and develop strategies. Some patients may have a psychiatric diagnosis and require medication. Other patients might need a referral to see a different provider for long term, ongoing therapy sessions.
Memorial Hospital patients who have experienced symptoms related to stress, depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, thoughts of suicide, or other symptoms related to mental or psychiatric illness are encouraged to ask their primary care team about the behavioral health services available to them.
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, diabetes care, behavioral health, women's health, podiatry, orthopedics and physical therapy. Memorial Hospital is also home to The Merriman House nursing home, which provides senior care services in a comfortable, home-like setting. For more information, www.memorialhospitalnh.org or call 603-356-5461.