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Lincoln Medical Center opens new integrated wellness center

12/19/2013, 3:45 p.m.
(L to R): George Rodriguez, chair of Lincoln Hospital’s community advisory board; Milton Nuñez, executive director, Lincoln Medical Center; Dr. Marieliz Alonso; Assistant Unit Chief Denise Soares, senior vice president of Generations+/Northern Manhattan Health Network and executive director of Harlem Hospital Center; and Miriam Moses, chair of the Lincoln Hospital Auxiliary Inc.

Lincoln Medical Center recently announced 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 colocated with the established Behavioral Health Clinic, providing easy access to essential services for a vulnerable population in need of a dedicated patient-centered medical home.

The program, which targets patients with serious mental illnesses and other chronic conditions, comes at a time when 55 percent of the patients who use Lincoln’s Behavioral Health Clinic have at least one chronic condition (pulmonary disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or HIV) and 31 percent suffer from two or more conditions. 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 and cardiovascular, pulmonary 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, an agency within 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, Generations+/Northern Manhattan Health 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 health care 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, “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 health care system and a network of community resources to overcome barriers to care.”

The Lincoln Integrated Wellness Center team is comprised of a primary care provider, psychiatrists, a registered nurse, a licensed clinical social worker, a patient care associate, a 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.