Mental Health Providers and Primary Care Teams Share Patients

UW program brings mental health and primary care medicine together under one roof

By Seattle Mag January 18, 2016


This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Seattle magazine.

Mental health issues such as depression are closely tied to physical health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, say behavioral health specialists, yet patients are far more likely to treat physical woes separately from mental ones. According to the University of Washington’s Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions (AIMS) Center, just half of the patients who receive a referral for specialty mental health care ever follow through—and many who do, quit after one visit.

AIMS develops, tests and helps set up UW’s mental health treatment program in UW clinics throughout the region. In an approach called “collaborative care,” mental health providers and primary care teams share patients and set goals for treatment in an environment that patients are more likely to revisit regularly—their doctor’s office.

The effect of behavioral health on physical health is immense, says psychiatrist Shyam Kelly Gupta, M.D., of The Polyclinic in Seattle. Patients who are depressed are far more likely to develop serious medical problems, he says. Gupta is part of a new Polyclinic program in which a behavioral health team—which includes a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW) and psychotherapist—is located right in the same building, in some cases on the same floor, as the primary care team at Polyclinic’s Madison location. Physicians at The Polyclinic hope that having the services in the same place will increase the chances that patients will seek help for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.


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