Mental illness does not solely affect cognitive processes; Mental illness causes significant strain on the overall physical well-being of an individual. Most people affected by mental illness live well below the poverty line, ultimately resulting in circumstances unconducive to healthy living. A combination of poor nutritional habits along with the various side effects associated with the use of anti-psychotic medication often leads to serious health problems such as diabetes and obesity; Adults living with mental illness die twenty-five years earlier and have a rate of obesity 50% higher than the general population.
The Healthcare Home Program was established in many different states as an initiative to address the physical side effects that stem from mental illness. Independence Center became an accredited Healthcare Home in 2012 through the onsite Wellness Center which provides personalized health coaching, metabolic screenings, and primary care physician consultations for members. The Wellness Center provides screenings for diabetes and heart disease, an exercise program with fitness equipment and classes, nutritional guidance, smoking cessation, and group support that focuses on increasing physical activity and reducing the symptoms of diabetes and heart disease. Many members of Independence Center are successfully taking steps to improve their physical well-being through intentional practices.
Yvonne has been coming to Independence Center for two years now; she says she has quit smoking five times, but never for extended periods of time. She is currently nearly four months smoke-free. Yvonne knows what it takes to live a long and prosperous life, and that is exactly what she hopes for. She credits her Independence Center nurses and community support worker, as well as her own personal initiative and determination, in her most recent success abandoning smoking. Inspired through Healthcare Home, Yvonne now eats healthier, breathes better, and has more money in her pocket. “Coming here is like a breath of fresh air” Yvonne says, “I feel supported and encouraged here. Along with that, seeing other people’s happiness makes me feel happy.” Yvonne explains how she tells jokes and tries to sustain a relaxed atmosphere around her; she exudes calmness and wears a smile. An improved focus on her health, in a more encompassing way, has improved her life dramatically and she is proud of where she stands. “I feel like I am ready to go back into the workforce now.” She has recently submitted a job application and is very hopeful about the prospective opportunity.
Healthcare Home has many members focusing on healthier living to stabilize and improve blood pressure and Hemoglobin A1C levels (measure of blood sugar concentration.) Independence Center member, Steve, dropped his A1C four points in the past few months. He now takes his medication regularly and has committed to drinking less soda and more water. Another member, Helen, had a dangerously high A1C. Her community support worker encouraged her to meet with her primary care physician and it was discovered that Helen was not taking her insulin and furthermore not following healthy guidelines in terms of her diabetic diet. Helen is now doing much better with the extra attention given to her through the support Healthcare Home extends. In another member’s experience, indicators of health problems were exposed through a metabolic screening provided by Healthcare Home. Due to this, Orville’s community support worker took him to see his primary care physician and additional tests showed extremely high triglycerides. Further, it was found that Orville was prescribed cholesterol medication last August that was never sent to pharmacy. He is now taking proper medication and is scheduled to meet with his doctor again soon to follow up on his progress.
Independence Center has been awarded the 2014 Healthcare Home Excellence Award for outstanding achievement and exceptional performance from the Missouri Department of Mental Health, MO HealthNet, and the Missouri Coalition of Behavioral Healthcare. In 2014, Independence Center increased 10% in overall enrollment. All Healthcare Home participants received primary care consultations, and most received metabolic screenings. As a result, 61% of participants have improved their blood pressure, and 57% have improved their cholesterol. Independence Center exceeded the state’s Healthcare Home set goals in levels of diabetes, asthma, and tobacco use. These numbers reflect the healthcare services provided by Independence Center, along with the committed work of both members and staff in fostering the true meaning of holistic wellness.