UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health receives grant to integrate primary care into mental illness programs

The $850,000, 3-year grant from The Duke Endowment will allow the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health to create a health home, integrating primary care into its mental health care programs.

UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health receives grant to integrate primary care into mental illness programs
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John Gilmore, MD, is director of the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health.

Media contact: Alice Lockhart, 919-843-3794, alice_lockhart@med.unc.edu

Friday, Dec. 16, 2011

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Individuals with schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses have a high rate of chronic medical diseases and die 25 years sooner than the average person. More than 60 percent of the excess deaths are due to chronic medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and infections.

”Many don’t have access to primary health care to identify and treat their physical diseases, and mental illness can diminish a person’s capacity to seek and manage their medical care,” says John Gilmore, MD, director of the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health. He is also Thad and Alice Eure Distinguished Professor, and vice chair of Research and Scientific Affairs in the UNC Department of Psychiatry.

“The newer medications used for serious mental illness sometimes exacerbate the problem by causing obesity and diabetes,” he continues.

The integration of primary and psychiatric care has been recognized at national and state levels as a way to provide better quality of life for persons with severe mental illness as well as lower the cost of their overall health care.

An $850,000, 3-year grant from The Duke Endowment will allow the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health to create a health home, integrating primary care into its mental health care programs for persons in Orange, Person and Chatham counties.  A health and wellness programming component will support health lifestyle change and prevent chronic disease.

Researchers will look for improvement in areas such as diabetes, weight management and improvement in cardiovascular disease indicators.

The Duke Endowment
, a private foundation in Charlotte, N.C., seeks to fulfill the legacy of James B. Duke by enriching lives and communities in the Carolinas through higher education, health care, rural churches and children’s services.

The center, originally founded with funding from The Duke Endowment in 2008, is part of the Department of Psychiatry within the UNC School of Medicine and offers a continuum of care for people with severe and persistent mental illness.

Its programs include: the Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program (STEP), its recently merged partner XDS, Inc. (Cross Disability Services) as well as Outreach and Support Intervention Services (OASIS).

“The importance of integrating primary medical care with psychiatric care cannot be overemphasized and is expected to reduce costs and improve clinical outcomes,” said Mary Piepenbring, vice president of The Duke Endowment. “Through this grant, the endowment is helping the center build on established programs and continue its critical work.”

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