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Andy Eastvold

MASON CITY — A new concept in health care soon to be implemented at the Mental Health Center of North Iowa will provide more comprehensive treatment for the center’s clients, an agency spokesman said.

Integrated Health Home (IHH), a model developed and mandated by the state, will be implemented beginning March 1, 2014, said Andy Eastwood, Mental Health Center executive director.

IHH consists of a team of professionals responsible for providing whole-person care for adults with serious mental illness and children with a serious emotional disturbance, Eastwood said.

“This isn’t a change of where you get your services,” Eastwood said. “It’s a change in how it’s managed and how it’s coordinated. It should be a change for the better.”

Additional staff will be hired and trained specifically for this program, Eastwood said.

Teams will include nurses and case managers-social workers.

The case managers address issues such as transportation, housing, employment and socialization that also affect quality of life.

A third component of the team is peer staff — people in recovery who are at a point where they can help others in their recovery, Eastwood said.

The entire team works in collaboration with community agencies as indicated.

IHH is a step beyond traditional Targeted Case Management because it provides care coordination across all aspects of an individual’s life that affect their overall health, Eastwood said.

“It’s like we’re reattaching the head to the body,” he said.

When serious mental disorders such as major depression, ongoing anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia go untreated, treatment for co-existing physical problems is that much more difficult, Eastwood said.

“It’s harder for primary care physicians to sort out what they’re treating at any one time.”

People with significant mental health issues typically have more difficulty accessing the routine health care that others may take for granted, Eastwood said.

Cost also becomes a factor in preventing these individuals from accessing needed health care.

There is also the question of intimidation, Eastwood said.

“How comfortable are people with serious mental health challenges in seeking out care from mainstream health care providers?”

Studies show that people with serious mental health problems and co-occurring physical problems die an average of 25 years earlier than people with physical illness who do not have accompanying mental health issues, Eastwood said.

“(IHH) is about understanding that a focus on whole health care is a vital part of staying well and healthy,” he said.

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