Anderson News

Published on October 12th, 2015

Teaming PCPs with Behavioral Health Therapist Proves So Successful That SLUHN Plans to Expand Program

SLUHN Integrated Behavioral Health Program Seeks PCP Practices Interested in Participating in Phase II

Most physicians would agree that behavioral health issues, such as anxiety, depression and stress, have a significant impact on physical wellbeing. And for some patients who frequent the physician’s office, their health issues may stem more from a mental or emotional source than a physical one.

For these reasons, St. Luke’s University Health Network decided to test the effectiveness of teaming a therapist, John Illingworth, LCSW, with primary care practices, Medical Associates of Bethlehem and William Penn Family Practice Center. John has been so warmly received that he provided 186 visits to 155 of the practice’s current patients since the program began in May (through September). Due to this success, SLUHN plans to expand the program by adding six to eight primary care settings over the next 10 months.

Dr. Michael Abgott, vice president, Medical Director Primary Care Division for St. Luke’s Physician Group, fully supports the program, saying he believes that many of the problems patients struggle with have an underlying emotional or psychological component.

“Often it is the timing that counts, catching the patient when they are willing to take the next step in improving their health,” Dr. Abgott says. “By integrating behavior health into our practice sites, we can offer patients timely and convenient access to these services.”

John coordinates the patient’s mental health care while working closely with the individual’s treatment team at the practice. After meeting with the patient for 15 to 20 minutes, he develops a plan to improve emotional wellness. This often involves referrals to in-network programs and outside community agencies. Then, he continues to guide the patient on an appropriate path to better mental health.

Carol Kuplen, St. Luke’s Network’s Chief Nursing Office and President of St. Luke’s University Hospital – Bethlehem, says this program helps patients navigate the health care system.

“By incorporating behavioral health counseling into our primary care practices, we hope to eliminate some of the stress and confusion associated with seeing multiple providers over multiple sites,” she says. “The introduction of this service takes our network one step closer to achieving the Triple Aim – better care, better health and lower costs – for our patients and community.”

About John Illingworth

JohnIllingworthA licensed clinical social worker, John has many years of experience working within the behavioral health field as a case manager, therapist/counselor and program supervisor in the private and public mental health settings. He has worked in both inpatient and outpatient psychiatric settings. John earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Kutztown University and a master’s in social work degree Marywood University. He was born and raised in the Lehigh Valley, where he continues to reside with his wife and their three daughters.

If you are interested in learning more about the program and being considered as a participant in the program’s second phase, please contact John by calling (484) 620-0489 or emailing him at [email protected].


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