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Why mental health is an essential component of physical health

Editor’s Note: This sponsored content was brought to you by Connect for Health Colorado

Every Mountain Family Health integrated clinic has behavioral health professionals on staff that offer both individual or group counseling.
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Mountain Family Health Centers believes that you can’t have physical health without mental health. When you keep the entire body well and whole, you’re keeping families and communities well and whole.

“The link between our mind and our soul and our body is really a powerful one,” said Garry Schalla, development director for Mountain Family Health Centers, which has 10 clinics that serve more than 20,000 people in western Colorado.

Mountain Family’s integrated care model includes medical, dental and behavioral health. Services are offered to anyone, whether you have private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, or no insurance.

In each Mountain Family Health integrated clinic in the mountain region — in Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Edwards — there are behavioral health professionals that offer both individual or group counseling. Behavioral health providers are also available to work with medical or dental patients at a moment’s notice, Schalla said.

Mountain Family Health Centers are not free clinics, but there is a sliding scale fee offered for those who are uninsured based on household size and income.

“We want you to be invested in your health,” Schalla said.  

Behavioral health is part of overall health

Patients who visit any Mountain Health clinic fill out a short patient survey that includes some questions about mental health. Schalla said the front desk staff, physician assistants, nurses and doctors are trained to identify signs that could indicate some mental health challenges.

Mountain Family Health Centers also works directly with crisis response providers such as Mind Springs and Aspen Hope, bringing not only follow-up counseling, but medical and dental support when needed, Schalla said.

“We also continue to do bilingual education around the stigma surrounding mental health for the Latino communities due to the cultural differences in how they view it,” Schalla said. “We want them to understand they don’t have to carry these burdens and there are resources for them to reach out that are bilingual and culturally acceptable.”

Educating communities about mental health resources is so important due to the fact that mental health is linked to overall physical health and longevity. Research shows that those suffering from mental health challenges live shorter lives than those who don’t.

“We know that it’s often those outside factors — the stress, fear and anxiety — that really contribute to our lack of well-being, so it’s really important that we offer an integrated system that includes that mental health portion of care,” Schalla said.

Shopping for health insurance

Since the first Affordable Care Act open enrollment in 2013, Mountain Family Health Centers has been partnering with Connect for Health Colorado to help get people signed up for health insurance. For the last three years, Mountain Family Health Centers has been an official assistance site, meaning their Health Coverage Guides can help people fill out financial assistance applications and review plan eligibility. The only thing they can’t do is advise people about specific health plans.

“Navigating the insurance system is hard and people often have trouble signing up or getting started,,” said Silvia Santana, outreach and enrollment manager for Mountain Family Health Centers. “We want to spread the word that we’re here to help people enroll in insurance through Connect for Health Colorado. Mental Health is considered one of the 10 Essential Health Benefits included in qualified plans under the ACA.”