New clinic combines mental health and primary care services.

    A new health clinic at Horizon House in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood combines mental health and primary care services.

    A new health clinic at Horizon House in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood combines mental health and primary care services.

    Delaware Valley Community Health is a partner in this project. CEO Patty Deitch says her staff will provide basic health services:

    Deitch: Physicals, treating acute primary care illnesses, flu shots, treating chronic conditions, having people come back so that we can monitor if they have diabetes or blood pressure, teaching them about how to take care of themselves and monitoring their progress.

    Offering primary health care services in a place where people usually go for mental health services is a new approach in dealing with chronic health issues in people with severe mental illnesses, who die on average 25 years younger than their peers.

    They suffer from obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Some of these problems are related to side-effects from medications. Others are caused by sedentary life styles or lack of access to care.

    Mark Salzer is a professor of rehabilitation sciences at Temple University. He says many severely mentally ill people feel uncomfortable at general primary care clinics:

    Salzer: Those centers might view these problems as mental health problems, or that people are too much of a hassle, or too difficult to work with, so people were falling through the cracks.

    Salzer says this clinic, a collaboration between Horizon House and Delaware Valley Community Health, is an important step in improving access to health care for people with severe mental illnesses. He says many of their problems can be treated effectively if they are caught early on and monitored.

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