Integrated outpatient mental health care


In this article:

  • Integrated behavioral health care provides easily accessible, solution-focused behavioral and psychological interventions. 

  • Patients are treated by a team of social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists who provide consultation.

  • The director of clinical operations for intensive outpatient behavioral health provides more details about services for pregnant and postpartum parents, teenagers and other populations.

At Swedish Medical Group, we believe mental and emotional health plays a vital role in your overall well-being and quality of life. We provide a wide range of outpatient services designed to offer solutions for behavioral health needs — including integrated care.

“Behavioral Health at Swedish Medical Group provides a continuum of care across acuity levels. This ensures patients have access to the right type of care, at the right time, in the right place,” explains Huynh Chhor, LICSW, director of clinical operations for intensive outpatient behavioral health. “Within our primary care and specialty clinics, we have integrated behavioral health providers working within the medical team. This provides high-quality care to patients who need behavioral health support. Our team consists of social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists who provide consultation and brief, solution-focused therapeutic interventions for people with behavioral health needs. Our collaborative approach ensures seamless communication about your treatment plan and goals.”

Below, Huynh shares a closer look at integrated care and why it's crucial for optimal health.

Q: What is fully integrated care?

A: Integrated care means we use an interdisciplinary team approach to care for patients. Our behavioral health providers are embedded within the same clinic spaces patients already visit for other medical needs. This is because primary care spaces offer the best opportunity to screen for behavioral health needs. They are a familiar setting for patients, so the barriers preventing access to care are much lower. We collaborate with the treatment team to ensure that everybody’s on the same page to provide help in a compassionate, safe and targeted way.

Q: What are the benefits of integrated care?

A: Integrated care makes accessing the services you need easier and more convenient. Imagine not having to schedule a separate appointment, maybe three, four, six weeks from now. If you need care at that moment, you can be seen by one of our behavioral health providers – sometimes the same day. As such, you are much more likely to get the care you need at the time you need it the most.

Q: Who needs behavioral health care?

A: Anyone can benefit from behavioral health services. It’s not just for the patients we think are chronically mentally ill or have substance use disorders. Behavioral health patients are not "other." Anyone, at any point in their life, can experience challenges with difficult life transitions and situations that lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, suicidality or any other challenging psychological state.

Incorporating that truth into our model of care for the whole person, accepting it as a reality and providing appropriate treatment sends a powerful message. It conveys that behavioral health needs are valid and deserving of attention and treatment. Addressing these needs and providing people with the resources to heal shows them that they can get better. It instills a message of hope.

“To achieve wellness, we must care for the whole person. And that includes behavioral health,” says Huynh. “We’re in the right place at the right time. We can connect you to the appropriate program. This also allows for compassionate, destigmatizing, trauma-informed, equitable, person-centered care.”

Q: What outpatient services are available to address behavioral health needs in our community? 

A: Behavioral health care at Swedish Medical Group provides a range of services for a diverse patient population, including adults with substance use disorders, pediatric patients in some settings and pregnant and postpartum moms. Our addiction medicine team and opioid care navigators provide services while connecting patients to longer-term substance use treatment.

We also have partial hospitalization programs if people need more intensive treatment. These programs run four to five days per week for six hours per day. Patients attend two to three weeks of treatment, with the goal of stabilization so they can return to an optimal level of functioning as they begin the next phase of treatment.

Q: Tell us more about the outpatient services at Swedish for parents during pregnancy and the postpartum year. 

A: We know being a new parent can be difficult, and we offer several services to help.

The Swedish Center for Perinatal Bonding & Support is an invaluable resource for people with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Support focuses on meeting your emotional and bonding needs during the third trimester of pregnancy and up to one year after delivery.

We have a phenomenal reproductive psychiatry team that can meet with potential birthing parents to discuss the risks and benefits of psychiatric medications during pregnancy. If a patient chooses to become pregnant and continues or starts on psychiatric medications, our team can follow them during pregnancy and postpartum for medication management lasting up to a year.

If patients require support beyond medication, they can access our partial hospitalization services I mentioned before. The program combines group therapy and medication management. Moms are encouraged to bring their newborns to treatment to spend six hours a day, four days a week with the treatment team. Patients learn how to recognize symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD and other mental health concerns. They gain skills to manage these symptoms, improve functioning and promote wellness. Equally important, patients learn how to create secure attachments with their newborns.

Our Addiction Recovery Services team consists of family practice physicians who specialize in both obstetrics and addiction. They serve patients with substance use disorders in our outpatient clinic at Ballard. They also run an outreach perinatal clinic at Cherry Hill for pregnant patients concerned with substance use. On the inpatient side, these same addiction specialists care for patients in the Chemically Using Pregnant Women’s Program (CUPW) located at Swedish Ballard.

Q: How about students who are suffering from anxiety, depression and other behavioral health challenges?

A: Swedish-Providence runs a teen health center for high school students from Ballard High School. Teens can access both physical and mental health services, ranging from family-planning services, STD testing and mental health counseling. The clinic also offers smoking-cessation programs, nutrition and exercise counseling, and other general health information. This program is great because it targets teens who are uninsured or underinsured and who would not otherwise have access to these services.

We also have a school-based program in the Issaquah school district with embedded therapists in the schools to help meet the mental health needs of students. Our goal is to foster well-being and ensure students’ safety and readiness for learning.

Q: How can people access outpatient behavioral health care services?

A: It depends on the program. Some programs accept self-referral. Others require a referral from your primary care provider. Speak with your Swedish Medical Group provider or visit our website for more information.

Q: What are the benefits of outpatient behavioral health care?

A: Ideally, we work with patients to help them identify when they are decompensating. In those cases, we intervene earlier in the process and can often prevent hospitalization.

Ensuring patients have access to the right services on an outpatient or intensive outpatient basis can help prevent a crisis before it reaches its peak. This means patients can remain in their homes and communities while undergoing treatment, thereby reducing the disruption to their lives.

Once a patient is in a crisis state, it can be frustrating, lengthy and potentially traumatic to access a higher level of care. They may experience barriers to inpatient care, including limited bed availability, desire to remain home with their animals or children and not meeting medical criteria for admission. Worse, some patients may not be aware they need help. This can result in involuntary admission when there is imminent risk to themselves or others.

Q: How have attitudes and beliefs about behavioral health care changed over the years?

 A: I think we talk a lot more about behavioral health than we used to. It’s become more of a focus in the community and health care. The change is palpable, even from just a few years ago. We’ve always had behavioral health champions, but it seems like even people outside this field understand the importance of behavioral health and its relationship to the overall health and well-being of our community.

This focus has translated to investments in resources to transform care, integrate technological evidence-based solutions and expand intensive outpatient services. Honestly, it’s really exciting to see so many people advocating for more behavioral health services in the community.

Q: What does the future hold for this field? 

A: We strive to provide timely, consistent care that supports our patients’ mental health and well-being. We hope to eliminate any gaps in care so that we can strengthen health systems, connect patients to the appropriate resources in the community and facilitate healing and wellness with a holistic approach to care.

Every year we’re growing, becoming more organized as a service line and proactively adapting to the changing needs of the community and evidence-based protocols. We want to serve every member of our community by expanding access to much-needed behavioral health services. Even though we’ve made great progress, we still have a lot more work to do.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about your mental health or the mental health of someone you love, contact behavioral health at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Additional resources

Recognize and manage the signs of mental health struggles.

No more excuses! It’s time for that wellness checkup

Understanding mental health counseling

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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About the Author

Whether it's stress, anxiety, dementia, addiction or any number of life events that impede our ability to function, mental health is a topic that impacts nearly everyone. The Swedish Behavioral Health Team is committed to offering every-day tips and clinical advice to help you and your loved ones navigate mental health conditions.

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