A landmark study in 2006 by Dr. Joe Parks showed that people living with severe mental illness die 25 years earlier than the average American. Often these deaths are from treatable medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Places for People is working to change this chilling statistic. In the past five years, our organization has marked several significant milestones to better serve the whole person.
- 2012: Places for People began participation in Missouri’s Health Home program, working with persons served to improve health outcomes, care coordination and healthy lifestyles.
- 2013: West Pine Pharmacy opened a fully-operational pharmacy at Places for People.
- 2015: Family Care Health Centers opened a satellite site at Places for People to improve access to care.
- 2016: Places for People welcomed its first full-time Medical Director to oversee all integrated care and psychiatric services.
- 2017: Places for People has expanded services in outpatient therapy, substance use treatment, including an opioid treatment clinic, and services for children, youth and their families.
Another major milestone came in October 2015, when Places for People received a four-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration Program (PBHCI).
The grant allowed Places for People to expand and enhance its primary care infrastructure by providing additional hours for nurses directly on treatment teams, and hiring a peer wellness coach and a fitness/nutrition specialist to provide individual and group education.
Director of the Physical Health Integration Team Diane Maguire said increasing the capacity to have all staff provide interventions to assist persons served make behavior changes to improve physical health and continue to deliver the message that physical health is no longer a specialty service. “This is what it takes to improve physical health,” she said.
This grant program has helped more than 250 people already. People like Debra.
Debra connected with Places for People in 2015 after being homeless for a year. During that year on the streets, her diabetes and high blood pressure went untreated. In such a stressful environment, it was difficult to make healthy eating choices or maintain a medication routine. “I couldn’t take my medications on the streets – no way,” she said.
Debra estimates she went to the emergency room five or six times during that year because of ear aches, dizzy spells and other complications from diabetes. The final time she was admitted to the ER, she was introduced to a member of Places for People’s outreach team through the Emergency Department Enhancement program.
The path to health + healing started for Debra with that connection. She started regular visits with an on-site psychiatrist at Places for People, and for the first time in two years she saw a primary care physician outside of an emergency room, beginning regular appointments at the Family Care Health Centers satellite site at Places for People. She re-established her benefits and moved into her own apartment in summer 2015.
As part of a federal grant project, Debra started working with a nurse and set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound) goals for her health. She learned more about making healthy choices in the grocery store, and started using a blood glucose monitor to measure her blood sugar level every day.
By improving her medication compliance and losing weight, Debra has made progress managing her diabetes, and has been able to decrease her medications. With her diabetes under control, she is focusing on new goals, including more community engagement.
These are the healthy outcomes that Places for People was hoping for when it was awarded the PBHCI grant in 2015.
Debra credits her treatment team and the staff at Places for People for helping her regain her health and hope for the future. “I thank God for them. I call them my angels.”