Helping patients

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The column that appeared in the Feb. 3 Post-Gazette "Improving Mental Health Care" by Karen Wolk Feinstein discusses the importance of evaluating the mental health of patients and reviews the role of the primary care physician in this task as well as the resources available.

This is a challenging issue for primary care physicians. The article briefly does mention the barriers that exist in everyday practice chiefly being that there is not sufficient time to adequately assess all aspects of mental health and thus always identify patients with significant problems.

Recognizing the time and complexities involved in addressing and evaluating the individual mental health needs of patients and then examining the payment structures in this area of care is certainly needed. Primary care physicians also require the support of mental health experts for those patients who require ongoing therapy and especially for those who pose a threat to themselves or others. A critical assessment of available resources in communities as well as a collaborative approach for these patients is clearly necessary. The primary care physician alone cannot provide the comprehensive mental health care for certain patients.

There are no easy or inexpensive solutions to the issues of mental health care. However, it is critical that we reexamine how we address these needs for the safety of patients and communities. We must identify and bolster the available resources as we continue to share existing models which have shown some success and to develop new models to improve the care provided to all patients with mental health needs.

LAWRENCE R. JOHN, M.D.
Chair
Primary Care Coalition
Allegheny County Medical Society
North Side


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