The medical system has long separated primary health care and mental health care. And in a city like Milwaukee where there are significant obstacles for people to have good access to healthcare – one aspect of a person’s health often suffers at the expense of the other.
The Milwaukee Center For Independence (MCFI) Whole Health Clinical Group provides recovery-oriented services and advocacy for people living with mental illness in Southeastern Wisconsin. The organization is also one of nine groups across the country to pilot a new model of community based integrated health care. This new system of care is designed to remove the barriers people face to taking care of both their body and mind - and have it moved into one place.
Currently under construction, a new building in West Allis will be the epicenter for much of Milwaukee’s population to take care of their complete physical and mental health needs, from bronchitis to depression.
John Chianelli is the executive director of Whole Health Clinical Group. He says that the clinic currently serves about 1,800 people, and with their new facility they expect to triple that number. Down the road, they are aiming to serve about 6,000 people.
Clients can see multiple specialists, ranging from internal medicine physicians to a psychiatrists or other specialists. "The entire team is working together with the client in a person-centered manner," says Chianelli, "they're getting a lot of service all under one roof with us."
"The research says that when we're able to do that, people have better health outcomes and get better quicker than in a fragmented model of care," he continues.
It comes down to some simple logic. "If you're physically healthy, you're emotionally healthier," Chianelli summarizes. "If you're emotionally healthier, you're physically healthier. So really when we integrate care, people start to see improvement both in their physical and emotional health, and of course your life is going to be better."
He also notes that this integrated care helps both individuals and the community. "We're looking to not only use a model that has better health outcomes for people, but also to be able to provide more access and then increase the community capacity for people who struggle with serious mental illness, addiction, trauma, health issues and poverty."