“Access to behavioral services in our community is a significant issue,” Door County Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Coordinator, Barb Johnson-Giese, said. “In Door County, the ratio of population to mental health providers is 715:1. The ratio in the state of WI is currently 440:1, which ranks 34th in the nation.”
An unfortunate reality for medical professionals in the Door County community and beyond is that physicians are increasingly pressured to diagnose and treat mental and behavioral health problems that they are often not adequately trained to diagnose or treat. The reason for this discrepancy is that as many as 70% of primary care visits are driven by patients’ psychological problems, such as anxiety, panic, depression, and stress. Furthermore, more than 80% of patients with medically unexplained symptoms receive psychosocial treatment in primary care by a physician—and yet, only about 10% will follow up on a referral to a mental health provider that is not conveniently located.
Providing high-quality behavioral health treatment is something medical centers across the country struggle with. Fortunately for Door County residents, Door County Medical Center (DCMC) has been quick to identify the array of challenges that oftentimes leave patients and practitioners alike distraught.
“The lack of mental health providers was identified as the #1 need in Door County, as 20 percent of the population in the U.S. experiences some type of mental health problems during a one-year period,” Johnson-Giese added. “In addition, mental health problems lead to increases in other chronic health conditions, and it’s paramount to treat the whole person.”
With this information in mind, DCMC has taken the initiative to provide services to address the needs of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit alike.
Why DCMC Cares About Behavioral Healthcare
For many years, medical professionals, both in our community and beyond, have understood that the health of the mind and the body are tightly connected, but as we consider many of the lessons learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for high-quality accessible behavioral healthcare is becoming increasingly clear.
“Anxiety and depressive disorders have significantly increased as a result of COVID-19 and its impact on us,” Johnson-Giese said.
The truth is that at some time in their lives, virtually everyone can benefit from behavioral health services due to changes in their health, relationships, or family dynamics. That’s why DCMC established the Behavioral Health Program–to help support the mental health needs of our community. Now more than ever, it’s important to increase the awareness of behavioral healthcare and decrease the commonly associated stigma.
For a plurality of reasons, in as many as 70% of individuals with depression, their depression goes undetected in primary care. Of individuals who die by suicide, about 90% had a mental disorder, and 40% had visited their primary care physician within the month before their suicide. Thus, primary care is a crucially important setting for detecting, treating, and managing mental and behavioral health problems.
“The good news,” according to Johson-Giese, “is it appears there has been a decrease in the stigma surrounding the importance of addressing mental health concerns, and the ability to provide virtual services has expanded, including some insurers’ coverage for telehealth services.”
The truth, simply stated, is this: Door County Medical Center cares about your mental well-being because it is a vitally important–though often overlooked–part of your overall health. Co-occurring mental disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression) can worsen the course of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, cancer, and more. Psychological distress has also been found to weaken the immune system. These truths are at the core of why DCMC is determined to fight the stigma surrounding behavioral healthcare. Whether many know it or not, our community depends upon these services.
It’s unsettling to consider the implications for the Door community in the face of another fact: the risk of suicide is higher in rural areas. Door County has a suicide rate of 14.9 per 100,000, and the state of Wisconsin has a suicide rate of 14.54 per 100,000. Comparing these numbers to the national rate of 13.48 per 100,000 is cause for concern to say the least. Furthermore, although older adults comprise just 12% of the nation’s population, they account for almost 20% of suicides, according to the National Council on Aging.
Now more than ever, expanding Behavioral Health services is of the utmost importance.
The Breadth of Services Provided by DCMC
Right now, Door County Medical Center offers three service lines, depending on the individual needs of any given patient. Each and every service is provided in comfort and privacy at DCMC. Our providers work hard to help patients identify which services will best help them on their journey to improved behavioral health and wellness.
Door County Medical Center’s first behavioral health service line includes psychotherapy services, focused on addressing all mental health concerns including but not limited to: depression, mood issues, stress management, anxiety, family & personal relationships, parenting concerns, work-related stress or conflicts, grief & loss, abuse or other types of trauma, and emotional issues related to health & medical concerns.
The second service line includes behavioral health psychiatric services such as mental health needs that may benefit from medication, addressing all mental health concerns & diagnoses, and self or other referrals (not limited to Door County Medical Center patients).
The third service line includes Senior Life Solutions, which aims to address some of the problematic changes that aging brings about, including anxiety, changes in appetite, depression, difficulty sleeping, and more.
For more information, contact Behavioral Health at 920-746-0510.
Click here to download Door County Mental Health & Crisis Prevention Resource Guide
An Increase in Volume Demands a Capacity Increase
For many, the lessons obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic have offered a new awareness of the importance of behavioral healthcare, something providers at Door County Medical Center experience firsthand on a daily basis.
As a result of the huge increase in patient volume that has been observed in recent years, DCMC is working hard to increase its patient capacity. For context, about 20% of American adults are currently experiencing a mental illness, equivalent to nearly 50 million people. In Wisconsin, 20.19% of adults–just over 900,000–are currently experiencing some form of mental illness. These numbers reflect a growing trend since March of 2020. For providers, this is like fighting an uphill battle.
Fortunately, Door County Medical Center team works hard to stay ahead of the curve. Recently, 5 of DCMC’s behavioral healthcare providers attended training for LGBTQ+ and are now designated as Safe Allies through the UWGB Pride Center's Safe Ally Training program. This is just one of the examples of the ways DCMC staff are working to expand their services in the face of rapidly increasing patient volume.
Wisconsinites and Americans alike are coming to terms with the importance of receiving high-quality behavioral healthcare, and it is of the utmost importance to the Door County Medical Center team that all patient needs be met. A complex array of problems weighs on the minds of our community members today. Whether one’s concerns relate to economic factors or health issues, political matters such as gun violence or impending global conflicts, or the ramifications of the usage of expanding technologies like social media, the anxieties and stressors many of our community members carry have a statistically significant impact on the quality of their health, and as a result, the quality of their life.
There is a need–both in our community and beyond–to shorten the waitlist for behavioral health services. The DCMC team is driven to make these services more accessible and to meet the needs of the community. There are a number of ways individuals can help.
“Donations and sharing of stories help to decrease the myths, stereotypes, and stigma related to seeking behavioral health services,” Johnson-Giese said. “The more discussion, accurate information, and funding occur regarding the importance of treating all aspects of our health, the more willing our community members will be to address the need and lack of access to these services.”
Door County Medical Center is currently accepting donations that will be allocated to support the expansion of DCMC Behavioral Health Services. Contact the DCMC Foundation to learn more.
Additionally, DCMC is also looking for people to share their stories. If you would be willing to share your experience, please send us a direct message through the DCMC Facebook page.