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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Whole Health Care: A New Meaning at Terros Health

By Bridget O’Gara, Terros Health

“Addressing both the medical issue and the substance use or mental health condition are essential to the individual’s whole health and healing.”


Visit a Terros Health Care Clinic and you may not hear the phrase “whole health care,” but you’ll no doubt experience it. 

Dr. Robert Allen
“Physical and mental health conditions used to be treated in silos, but this is starting to change,” said Robert Allen, M.D., Terros Health Primary Care Physician and Addictionologist. “At Terros Health, we have begun treating the ‘whole’ person and the outcomes have been promising.” 

Terros Health physicians, nurses, patient navigators, counselors and other providers are gaining a reputation for successfully merging top-quality primary medical care with excellent recovery addiction services and exceptional mental health care. Also known as “integrative medicine,” whole health care the Terros Health way brings together patients and providers to focus on healing the mind and body.

“Changing our name from ‘Terros’ to ‘Terros Health’ was a significant
Peggy Chase, CEO
milestone,” said Peggy Chase, Terros Health President and CEO. 
“Our new name better encompasses who we are now, as well as where we are going as an integrated, whole health care company caring for the minds and bodies of our patients.”

How do Terros Health patients experience whole health? 

The Terros Health team is specially trained to address what are called “co-occurring” conditions. This can mean a medical condition — such as high blood pressure, diabetes or a heart condition — that spirals out of control for someone who is involved in substance use or who has a mental health condition. Addressing both the medical issue and the substance use or mental health condition are essential to the individual’s whole health and healing.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 7.9 million adults in the United States had co-occurring disorders in 2014. Additionally, people with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder. 
Co-occurring disorders are difficult to diagnose. Their symptoms can be complex and subtle with one disorder being more severe than the other. Often, people receive treatment for one disorder while the other goes untreated. This may happen because both mental health and substance use disorders can have biological, psychological and social components.
“For those suffering from addiction, finding integrated primary and mental health care — like Terros Health offers — has proven to be especially beneficial,” Dr. Allen said. “Primary care doctors can identify the signs of drug use and abuse in their early stages. This is significant given that approximately 40 million Americans are dealing with a milder form of drug use called ‘medically harmful substance abuse.’”

The whole health care services provided by Terros Health include:

Physical health care
Addiction care
Prevention services 
Health education initiatives 
Mental health care  (including for severe and persistent mental illness)
Wellness programs
Mobile crisis (in partnership with Crisis Response Network and municipal first responders)

Meet Nicole and Martin

After experiencing a tragic loss, one Phoenix family benefitted from the whole health care approach provided by the Terros Health team. The mother, father and three children receive primary and behavioral health services through Terros Health at the Terros Health Care Clinic 27th Avenue, 3864 N. 27th Avenue in Phoenix.

Nicole, the mom, was the first family member to seek out Terros Health to address grief due to the death of her 3-year-old son. 

“The counseling really helped,” Nicole said. “I also go there for my primary care.”
Martin, the father, said the mental health care he receives has helped stabilize his depression and anxiety. He also receives excellent medical care for his diabetes with the nonprofit health care organization. 

“I will keep going to Terros Health,” he said. “They take time to listen to me.”
It’s a family affair as 20-year-old Eric receives help from Terros Health’s behavioral health professionals. 

“I need counseling to help me with my ups and downs,” he said, “and to better manage my anger outbursts.”

Eric also receives primary care at Terros Health, as does Mishelle, his 16-year-old sister. Their older brother, Quinn, plans to reach out to Terros Health for his medical care.

For Nicole, she values the convenience of having all aspects of the family’s health care managed from a single location. 

“We even get our prescriptions filled there,” she said. “We would not be doing nearly as well without Terros Health.”

Knowledge is Power

In Arizona and nationwide, the importance of treating the whole person is particularly critical. According to a SAMHSA report, in Arizona the lives of people with Serious Mental Illness (SMI) are shortened by 30 percent. Nationally, people with SMI die 25 percent earlier.

A recent study of 1.1 million people with bipolar disorder supports this disturbing statistic. It also firmly links physical and mental health. Published in JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers found people with SMI were 3.5 times more likely to die than the general population during the study period. A staggering 85 percent of the early deaths among people with SMI were due largely to preventable conditions: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease.

Why is this? It’s a complicated question, but many experts point to a whole health approach as part of the solution. For example, it’s been recognized for some time that people with SMI, including bipolar disorder, also often have unhealthy lifestyle behaviors—poor diet and lack of exercise. Additionally, people with bipolar disorder are more likely to smoke than people with no mental illness. All of these unhealthy behaviors contribute to many of the physical problems this population experiences. 

Meet Monica

Thankfully, because of her introduction to Terros Health, Monica has been able to effectively address her SMI. 

When her mother passed away in 2015, Monica’s life began to spiral out of control. Previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she went into a manic state after receiving a large sum of money from her mother’s estate. 

“The insurance payout made it all real,” Monica said.  The weight of her significant personal loss caused Monica to consider unpleasant thoughts of suicide. 

After receiving advice from a friend, Monica voluntarily checked herself into Recovery International last summer. It was the same day Monica was introduced to Tracy McDowell, a crisis transition navigator, from Terros Health who was assigned to help her make a smooth transition out of the hospital and back into her daily life. 

Tracy was quick to take action. She set up a SMI evaluation, as well as a primary care appointment with a nurse practitioner, at the Glendale Primary Care and Counseling location. Within four days, Monica received an SMI diagnosis, which is often a lengthy process that can sometimes take up to 20 days. The nurse practitioner also assessed Monica’s medication and referred her to Terros Health’s behavioral services for further care.

And they were just getting started. In less than two weeks, Monica and Tracy worked together to build a strong resume, submit applications for jobs, and schedule counseling and primary care appointments for the next 90 days.

Today, Monica is stronger. 

“I didn’t know what to expect when I was set up with a crisis transition navigator,” she said. “I thought once I got out of the hospital they would just leave me to my own devices, but that wasn’t the case. Tracy really changed my life.”

Whole Health Concept Grows

The idea of healing the whole person is gaining national traction. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is focused squarely on the issue. 

Susan T. Azrin, Ph.D., Program Chief, Primary Care Research Program, Division of Services and Intervention Research at NIMH, has described the premature and preventable deaths of people with SMI as “a tremendous public health concern.” 

She’s called for strategies designed to reduce common health risk factors – high blood pressure, poor diet, lack of fitness, and smoking — among to people with SMIs.

Peggy Chase noted this is the centerpiece of the Terros Health whole health model. She also said the organization is eager to share what her team has learned about the benefits of whole health.

“We collaborate with community, government agencies and health systems to efficiently deliver the best patient experience and quality care,” she said.

Meet Ryan

Ryan is a Terros Health client who has thrived, thanks to the organization’s whole health approach to care. 

Ryan had a difficult childhood. Witnessing his family deal with substance abuse and mental health issues, he used drugs and alcohol at a young age as a way to cope. At 14-years-old, he checked into his first rehab facility.

“He went to numerous rehab facilities after that,” said Karen, Ryan’s mother. “They would always try to diagnosis him with ADHD and depression, but could never agree on a diagnosis.”

In 2014, Ryan’s battle with addiction and mental health issues came to a breaking point. After losing his grandfather, Ryan seemed to lose his will to live. He attempted suicide by ingesting 45 Xanax pills. Doctors shared the bleak news with Ryan’s family that he would not likely survive. And, if he did pull through, Ryan may have sustained serious organ damage. Miraculously, Ryan survived unscathed.

“That’s when I asked for help,” Ryan said. 

He entered an inpatient program at the Urgent Psychiatric Care Center. There, he learned about Terros Health.

“I knew that I didn’t want to get lost in it all after I was discharged, so I enrolled in the LADDER program,” said Ryan.

LADDER Leads to Diagnosis

It was through LADDER, an outpatient counseling program that Ryan first started to understand co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis. 

“I always just thought I was an alcoholic,” Ryan said. “I never knew that I had some deep-seeded mental health issues as well.” 

Ryan was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and substance abuse disorder. Both Ryan and his mom were relieved to see how much there was to learn about his health challenges. 

“For six months, he would take two different buses, every day, to get to LADDER,” Karen said. “He was ready to change.”

Shortly after Ryan graduated from LADDER, he was offered a job at a construction company by a man who shared a similar dream as Ryan: to open up a sober living facility. Now, that dream is becoming a reality, as their first sober living home is due to open this month. Ryan, who will be the director of operations at the new facility, said he’s content with where he is in life. 

“I’m so thankful that I’m gainfully employed and have my family back,” he said. “Terros Health brought me to the understanding that anything I go through is manageable.”

Inspiring Change for Life

According to Chase, the Terros Health story is best told by its whole health partners, people like Nicole, Martin, Monica, Ryan and others.

“Many thanks to these brave individuals for sharing their journeys,” Chase said. “It feels good to hear such touching stories of empowerment and life transformation. These heartfelt testimonies illustrate how our focus on whole health provides better outcomes for our patients and our community.”

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For more information about Terros Health, visit www.terroshealth.org or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TerrosHealth and Twitter @TerrosHealth. 

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Terros Health is an Arizona, not-for-profit, integrated whole health care organization with specialization in mental health and addiction care for adults, adolescents, children and families. Terros Health provides whole health care through the patient centered medical home — an all-in-one place location dedicated to meeting the needs of a person’s mind and body.