Centerstone’s Integrated Healthcare Program Significantly Improves Health of Those with Serious Mental Illness

Published research details how Centerstone’s BE Well program led to reductions in weight, BMI, diabetes risk, cigarette use, blood pressure and hyperlipidemia

Centerstone Research Institute recently completed a comprehensive evaluation of Centerstone’s integrated care program, Building Exceptional Wellness (BE Well), a four-year primary and behavioral healthcare integration grant awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Evaluation findings demonstrated that individuals living with serious mental illness can significantly improve their physical health when offered the right tools and support. Results were published in the Journal of Social Service Research, a peer-reviewed publication devoted to empirical research and its application to the design, delivery and management of social services.

“Studies show that individuals living with serious mental illness are at heightened risk for metabolically related diseases, like diabetes, but less likely to access primary care services that can help them effectively treat their conditions or manage their health,” said Maren Sheese, BE Well project director. “Centerstone’s BE Well program addresses this by integrating primary care services into community mental health centers. The results have been extremely promising. It’s a care model that can truly transform the healthcare system and improve the overall health and wellbeing of people with mental illness.”

Launched in January 2010, BE Well was an integrated physical and mental healthcare program that addressed health disparities experienced by individuals in Indiana with serious mental illness. The key implementation strategy was the provision of collaborative care, wellness programming and medical and behavioral healthcare.

Located in Bloomington, Ind., one hundred and sixty-nine adults enrolled in BE Well and consented to participate in the evaluation study. Evaluators collected data on the primary mental health diagnosis and demographics as well as noninvasive biomarkers—vital indicators of physical health related to metabolic risk (weight, blood pressure and cigarette smoking habits)—and laboratory biomarkers (glycated hemoglobin, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein).

Through the two-year study, findings participants experienced a reduced risk for metabolically-related disease. An average weight loss of 6.88 lbs., measured six months post enrollment, was found among participants, with 31 percent of all participants losing at least 5 percent of their baseline body weight and more than 9 percent losing at least 10 percent.

Participants at clinical risk of diabetes at the beginning of the program experienced, on average, a .5 percent reduction in glycated hemoglobin, which improved their condition from “diabetic” to “pre-diabetic” as defined by the Americans Diabetes Association. The evaluation team also found a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in participants who exhibited high blood pressure before enrolling in BE Well.

At the program baseline’s, 52 percent of participants reported smoking cigarettes. At the six-month follow-up, these individuals reported a statistically significant reduction of 5.16 cigarettes each per day, and 16 percent of baseline smokers reported smoking zero cigarettes a day.

Complete research findings are presented in a paper titled, “Integrated Healthcare in a Community-Based Mental Health Center: A Longitudinal Study of Metabolic Risk Reduction” in the Journal of Social Service Research.

“Findings from the BE Well program highlight the important role social work practitioners play in improving the health of individuals living with both serious mental illness and metabolic disease,” said Dr. John Putz, operations manager for research & evaluation at Centerstone Research Institute. “This study will help us better understand how to build the most effective care programs to treat both physical and mental health conditions and provide the best care in the best environment.”

For more information BE Well, visit www.centerstone.org.