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Ogden ‘Wellness Clinic’ will be Utah’s first one-stop shop for physical, mental health services

SHARE Ogden ‘Wellness Clinic’ will be Utah’s first one-stop shop for physical, mental health services

OGDEN — Weber Human Services and Midtown Community Health Clinic are in the process of reattaching the head to the body.

In February, the two agencies will open the Wellness Clinic in the Weber Human Services complex at 237 26th St. The clinic will integrate the treatment of mental and physical illness under one roof. It is the first clinic of its kind in the state.

"Integrated care will allow the whole individual to be treated," said project manager Karen Bassett.

Because the treatment of physical and mental illness are largely segregated, the overall health of people with both issues tends to be poor.

Studies show that people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression served by public mental health systems die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population. In Utah, they die 29 years earlier, on average.

Most die from cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory disease. Smoking is a major contributing factor to these illnesses, although people with mental illness also have higher rates of alcohol consumption, obesity, lack of exercise and unsafe sexual behaviors than the general population.

Dr. Laura Knudson of Midtown Community Health Clinic said the new Wellness Clinic will be a "health home" for patients struggling with both physical and mental illness. Twenty-four percent of people with mental illness have an identifiable chronic illness, she said. Sixty percent die from conditions that can be readily treated.

"It's hard to live life sometimes if you're a mental health patient," Knudson said.

The goal of integrated care, she said, "is to engage patients as partners in their health care and help them stay as healthy as possible."

Smoking cessation, for instance, will be a high priority for all patients.

Sandy Clark of Ogden receives care from public mental health providers at the Weber Human Services and sees physicians Midtown Community Health Clinic for her health care needs.

"I think it will be fantastic," Clark said, following a brief tour of the clinic, which is still under construction. "Right now I'm going between this place and Midtown."

One-stop care should enhance patients' overall health, Clark said. She knows from experience. Although she would visit physicians to address physical problems, she never sought mental health help. Bit by bit, she plummeted into a deep depression, so severe she scarcely left her house for two years, she said. "I didn't leave the chair in the living room of my house," she said. Last fall, she ended up hospitalized to treat her depression.

The integrated clinic, which will house physical and mental heath care providers who can readily consult on patients' overall health, was made possible by a $1.6 million grant over four years from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It features an on-site pharmacy and lab. Patients must have a mental health disorder and be involved in mental health treatment with Weber Human Services. The walk-in clinic will serve only adults.

Services are offered on sliding fee scale depending on family size income. People with private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, Primary Care Network or the uninsured can seek care at the clinic.

The overarching goal of the clinic is to improve the quality of life of patients and increase their longevity, said Kevin Eastman, director of Weber Human Services.

"We spend a lot of time and resources driving people around Weber County to take care of these needs," he said. "It's been a goal of mine to integrate these services."

"It will be a lot better to have it all together," said Joseph Whitten, a mental health client who has schizophrenia and has been treated for testicular cancer.

e-mail: marjorie@desnews.com