URBANA — When people bring more than physical health issues to a hospital emergency room, they may need more services than a hospital can provide.
Now, that extra help is available at Carle Foundation Hospital — nearby its emergency department — from Community Elements, the local mental and behavioral health agency.
Starting this week, Community Elements is using space donated by Carle at the hospital to see patients coming to the emergency department with both chronic illness and mental health concerns, and help them obtain care for both.
Chronic, non-emergency health conditions are best served by ongoing primary medical care, rather than a hospital emergency room. Those patients using the emergency department for primary care will be linked to more appropriate care resources and health coverage options, said Community Elements CEO Sheila Ferguson.
The link between mental and physical health is important, she says.
Stresses of life are linked to physical diseases and chronic illness can be hidden in people with mental health issues.
People with behavioral health illnesses tend to die 25 years younger than their peers without these conditions because of underlying health issues, and sometimes because they lack primary care, Ferguson said.
Community Elements has been striving since 2010 to link its clients with primary care and other needed health services, Ferguson said.
The new location at Carle, being staffed with the help of a $140,000 state grant, is one of three locations in Champaign-Urbana in which Community Elements is working in partnership on integrated behavioral and physical health, she said.
The agency also works with the community resource center at Presence Covenant Medical Center, and since December, an advanced practice nurse from Frances Nelson Health Center has been coming to Community Elements' 801 N. Walnut St., C facility once a week to better serve clients with both physical and mental health needs, Ferguson said.
At Carle, patients being referred from the emergency department will find help before they leave the hospital, she said. Referrals will be available on a wide range of services, among them substance abuse and smoking cessation, she said.
"It's a nice marrying of services that we can use to help people improve their whole quality of life," she said.