Erin Hafer is the Manager of New Programs Integration at Community Health Plan of Washington, a not-for-profit organization founded by local community health centers. Over the past six years, she has overseen the implementation of Collaborative Care in nearly 150 community health centers across the state of Washington as part of the Mental Health Integration Program. Erin recently spoke to us about her experiences.
Collaborative Care Stories
Elizabeth is a 66 year old woman who was a patient in the original IMPACT Trial. She had been suffering from depression for 20 years and had tried to protect herself from her pain through isolation. With the help of her care manager, Rita, Elizabeth began to trust others. “Rita helped me to open up and feel like a person again. She came into my life to save my life. She’s an angel to me." Read Elizabeth's story, courtesy of the John A. Hartford Foundation, funders of the IMPACT trial.
Poor mental health is a major public health issue that robs millions of people of their chance to lead healthy and productive lives. Depression alone doubles overall healthcare costs, worsens other medical conditions, and results in a staggering loss of productivity at work. In underserved rural areas in the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) region, the severe lack of qualified mental health workers compounds these problems.
My first exposure to primary care psychiatry came when I spent a month in residency rotating with the Rural and Remote Mental Health Service in South Australia. We provided psychiatric consultations via telemedicine and occasional visits to distant primary care sites. For someone concerned about the public health impact of mental disorders, it was an exceptional experience – I was helping to shape the care delivered to hundreds of patients.