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Mental health disorders, specifically depression, and a

Mental health disorders, specifically depression, and anxiety, are among the top five chronic conditions contributing to overall healthcare costs in the United States and rank first in global disease burden in terms of years lived with a disability1. Individuals with mental illness have higher rates of chronic disease including cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and cancer, resulting in a life expectancy of up to 30 years less than adults without serious mental illness2.

Family Medicine physicians deliver most of the physical and emotional health care to our communities and are in a unique position to connect patients to behavioral health, improving their overall well-being. Within this context, the UNC Family Medicine Residency Program received the HRSA Primary Care Training and Enhancement Grant, “Family Medicine Residency Training in Mental and Behavioral Health.” This collaborative effort will help improve outcomes and address the lack of behavioral health resources in many communities.

Mallory McClester Brown, MD, Residency Director, and the grant’s Primary Investigator (PI), provides details of how this will affect these conditions: “The purpose of the project is to enhance and expand behavioral health training for residents in the UNC Family Medicine residency program with an emphasis on integrated, interdisciplinary behavioral and mental health care. This will increase the workforce skilled in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health conditions in community-based primary care settings with an emphasis on high-need and under-resourced locations, including rural areas of North Carolina.”

This project also enhances training and treatment for mental and behavioral health issues in children and adolescents, including opioid use disorder (OUD), other substance use disorders, and the effects of trauma (abuse, gun violence, adverse childhood experiences, etc.), while advancing faculty development in the aforementioned areas. Residents will work with Herman Naftel, MD, of UNC Psychiatry, in a consultation clinic where residents can refer their child and adolescent patients (ages 5-21 years of age) with additional psychological concerns.

Training for family medicine residents and faculty will be based on a patient-centered, holistic framework that includes addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), trauma-informed, and linguistically and culturally appropriate care.

UNC Family Medicine faculty Linda Myerholtz, PhD, and Michael Baca Atlas, MD, are Co-PIs on the grant, with Kelsey Ross Dew, MPH, CHES, the Project Manager. Others involved are Brianna Lombardi, PhD, MSW, and Chair Margaret Helton, MD.