Behavioral consultant Barb Weathersby works full time in Tillamook County's two health clinics.
Physician Assistant Marty Caudle says having a behavioral health consultant on site is "a huge benefit."
July 10, 2013 (Tillamook) – The Tillamook County Health Department long ago integrated public health services into its federally qualified health center's three clinics. And a few years ago the clinics brought a mental health provider on staff for part of two days each week. Now the health department has teamed up with the Tillamook Family Counseling Center to embed a full-time behavioral health provider in the clinics.
"Staff led the charge," says Marlene Putnam, administrator for Tillamook County Health and Human Services. "We have a lot of depression and anxiety in the community. They said, 'We need this on site and we will make it work.'"
Behavioral health provider Barb Weathersby started work at the clinic in January and is now seeing as many as five clients each day. She says the change is making a difference for local families.
Recently, the clinic saw a young child with a serious health problem that suggested an issue with the parent. A pediatric nurse practitioner referred the family to the behavioral health provider, who found that the parent was overwhelmed by multiple legal, family and financial stresses. With a brief intervention, the parent was able to get the child's health back on track.
"Staff led the charge" to bring a behavioral health provider into Tillamook County's primary care clinics, says Marlene Putnam, administrator for Tillamook County Health and Human Services.
Weathersby says a success like this might not have been possible in a more fragmented health care environment.
The family would not have sought behavioral help on their own, she says. And in a doctor's office without mental health expertise on staff, crucial clues might have gone unnoticed.
"Without the parent's behavioral aspect being addressed, they would have taken more tests, maybe would have referred the child to a specialist," Weathersby says.
Because the clinic provides integrated behavioral health care, she says, it was able to offer the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time.
Physician assistant Marty Caudle says that by absorbing the behavioral care needs in the clinic, Weathersby frees up valuable time for other providers. Overall, he says, "It's a huge benefit to us as providers, to the clinic as a whole, and to comprehensive care for all of our patients on the Oregon Health Plan."
The Tillamook County Health Department and the Tillamook Family Counseling Center are partners within the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization.