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December 2, 2013 

Lincoln Medical Center opens New Integrated Wellness Center to Improve The Health of Patients with Serious Mental Illness

Initiative Will Reduce Emergency Room Visits and Number of Hospitalizations

Cutting the ribbon on the new Integrated Wellness Center. (L to R) Chair, Lincoln Community Advisory Board George Rodriguez; Exec. Dir. Milton Nunez; Asst. Unit Chief Marieliz Alonzo, MD; SVP of Generations+/Northern Manhattan Network Denise Soares; Chair, Lincoln Auxiliary, Miriam Moses, RN.

Bronx, NY ― Lincoln Medical Center announced today the opening of the Lincoln Integrated Wellness Center, an innovative program designed to provide primary care and behavioral health services for adult psychiatric patients under one roof. Using an integrated, collaborative care model, the Center is co-located within Lincoln’s Behavioral Health Clinic, providing easy access to essential services for a vulnerable population in need of a dedicated patient-centered medical home.

The program targets patients who have serious mental illness along with other chronic health conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. These patients often miss medical appointments, cannot participate in their own care, and sometimes the treatment of their mental illness interferes with their regular primary healthcare. Many of these patients wind up in emergency rooms or being admitted to a hospital unnecessarily. Fifty-five percent of the patients who use Lincoln’s Behavioral Health Clinic have at least one chronic condition (pulmonary, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or HIV) and thirty-one percent suffer from two or more conditions.

Adults with both serious mental illness and chronic medical conditions have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years less than patients with chronic disease who do not have mental illness. These patients are also at higher risk for infectious diseases, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Other national statistics indicate that people with serious mental illness die 15 to 25 years earlier than the general population while 60 percent of the increased mortality among people with schizophrenia is due to preventable conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular, pulmonary disorders and infectious diseases.

This innovative approach to treating mentally ill patients with chronic medical conditions was made possible through a $1.6 million grant over four years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Lincoln has stepped up to the plate to offer the extra care and coordination that this population needs,” said Denise Soares, Network Senior Vice President. “As a Network that serves communities that are disproportionately impacted by poor health outcomes, mental illness and societal constraints, it is our goal to attack health issues on all fronts. The Wellness Program serves as a model to other healthcare institutions that are equally concerned about improving the health outcomes of their behavioral health patients and providing them with all the tools necessary to lead a healthy life.”

“At Lincoln, we aim to establish best practices that combine physical and mental health – two services which have historically been treated separately,” said Milton Nuñez, Lincoln Medical Center’s Executive Director. “It is my belief that Lincoln’s Integrated Wellness Center will demonstrate that we can in fact target and treat the whole patient, not just part of the patient, in a holistic, cost-effective manner.”

Dr. Akinola Fisher, Chief of Ambulatory Care noted that, “Through this ‘one-stop-shop’ modality our staff will help patients better manage their chronic conditions, provide them tools to live healthier lifestyles, and help them navigate through the healthcare system and a network of community resources to overcome barriers to care.”

Lincoln Integrated Wellness Center team is comprised of a primary care provider, psychiatrists, registered nurse, licensed clinical social worker, patient care associate, patient navigator, and a hospital care investigator. In addition to comprehensive medical services, the program incorporates wellness promotion, disease self-management education, linkage to community support services, referrals to specialty and subspecialty services, and coordination of transitional care.

Additionally, a volunteer program to support family caregivers of individuals with serious mental illness will be developed with a $35,000 grant from the United Hospital Fund. For this new component of Lincoln’s Integrated Wellness Program, 15 volunteers will be recruited to facilitate family caregiver support groups and to serve as a resource for caregivers who are providing support to a family member with serious mental illness. The support groups will follow a peer-led model promoted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


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