By Amanda Felice, MS, LMHC, Director of Behavioral Health Services, Finger Lakes Community Health

Where do you turn if you’re just not yourself? Feeling anxious or down in the dumps? Maybe a family member or friend is abusing alcohol or drugs. These are hard topics to talk about but often it’s even harder to find care. Fortunately, awareness for mental health issues and substance abuse is on the rise. And with the recent news of celebrity suicides, such as Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, we are no longer treating behavioral health as a taboo topic.

Start with your primary care provider. Begin by raising your hand and letting your primary care provider know how you feel. If you don’t have one, choose one in your area — someone you trust and can discuss sensitive topics with. If you already have a provider, you may have noticed that you’re being asked some sort of mental health or substance abuse questions or need to fill out a behavioral health questionnaire. With the rising number of overdoses, policies are being implemented at the State and Federal level to address behavioral health and substance abuse needs.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 adults in America experiences a mental illness and 10.2 million adults in America have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorder. Then why is it that nearly 60% of adults in America with a mental illness did not receive mental health services within the past year? As a treatment provider, this tells me we aren’t doing enough.

How do you get treatment for these conditions?
Treatment in the U.S for mental health and substance abuse services can be hard to access. You may be able to locate the nearest addiction treatment center or your local County mental health clinic online, but the barriers to care might be prominent. Many individuals have insurance issues, transportation problems, language barriers, childcare issues, limited education, cultural stereotypes and other barriers that influence their ability to reach out for treatment. Yet there are solutions. At Finger Lakes Community Health, we can help with health insurance, care coordination, and with our integrated approach, you can get multiple services (primary care, behavioral health) at one health center.
Treatment for Substance Abuse
The Finger Lakes region has been faced with an unfortunate substance abuse addiction problem. While many agencies, law enforcement, hospitals, and community organizations work together to tackle the addiction epidemic, there is still more that needs to be done. At Finger Lakes Community Health, we have worked with grants available to our organization to build a collaborative, team-based approach within our primary care setting.

Currently, we offer mental health, substance abuse, medication-assisted therapy (MAT), and psychiatry at seven of our health centers utilizing telehealth (video communication) when needed. This is a significant change having primary care and behavioral health services together, compared to having them separated. A patient’s entire care team can be under one roof allowing full collaboration while achieving the optimal quality of life for the patient.

In order to receive behavioral health services at one of our health centers, a referral is done at the health center by one of the medical providers who treat the individual for primary care. We do not offer behavioral health services to individuals that do not receive medical care from one of our many providers. If you don’t have a provider, pick one at the health center closest to you. Visit our website to learn more about our providers. www.LocalCommunityHealth.com