Missouri to be part of pilot program to transform behavioral health care

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Low-income Missourians will have the opportunity to get coordinated care for the mind and body. The state is one of eight picked by the federal government to potentially transform the delivery of care.

Stephanie Smith works at Swope Health Central helping people with mental illness and substance abuse problems. For decades, Smith herself struggled with depression, anxiety, other mental disorders and a crack cocaine addiction.

"I've been there where you get treated for one thing, but you don't get treated for the other part, you know, and then it gets off balance," she said.

Swope has long provided care for the mind and body. Now Mark Miller, a vice-president, says that care will truly be integrated. Next year, Swope will become one of 22 new Certified Community Behaviorial Health Clinics in Missouri. The federal government picked Missouri as one of eight states to pilot the modernization of behavioral health services.

"Using care coordinators, using a coordinated plan of care, we think we can have an impact in helping someone live a much more healthful and fruitful life," said Miller.

Primary health care will be provided for each client right along with their behavioral health care. Miller says that's important since some studies show people with mental illness die, on average, 25 years earlier than those who don't have it.

"They aren't dying necessarily because of suicide and those sorts of things. They're dying because of chronic diseases -- diabetes, heart conditions," said Miller.

"When we treat the whole person, then the whole body heals mentally and physically," said Smith.

She said that's where she is today.

The centers in Missouri will be urban, suburban and rural. Miller thinks they can learn a lot from each other about what works in healing the whole person.