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Behavioral health consultants add new dimension of care at Bothwell


Dr. Robynne Lute was in the middle of a virtual meeting when she received a call on her cell phone. Breaking standard meeting etiquette, she took the call while the meeting continued. After hanging up, she apologized to the group and explained it was about a patient in immediate need.

“It was a call from a nurse at a clinic,” Lute said. “They had a patient in their office who needed special behavioral care. When they need me, I answer.”

Lute is a licensed psychologist and leads Bothwell Regional Health Center’s Behavioral Health Consultant team that provides short- and long-term behavioral health services to patients at several Bothwell clinics.

“A Behavioral Health Consultant is a trained professional, such as a licensed psychologist or social worker, who is embedded within a primary care medical setting,” Lute said. “We partner with the clinic team to assist patients with behavioral changes related to overall health and well-being.”

This team was formed last summer and includes Lute and two doctoral psychology interns, Carolyn Gibson and Amanda Williams. Their goal is to increase same-day access to care for children, adults and families struggling with chronic health conditions, mental health concerns or substance use that impact their health.

“This whole person, team approach means we can step in when a patient has a need on the same day as their appointment with their physician or provider,” Lute said. “They may need help related to a new diagnosis like diabetes or a mental health concern such as grief that deserves more time and attention. This allows patients to feel heard, to gather information and to gain new skills related to their specific situations.”

Gibson sees patients at Bothwell TLC Pediatrics, while Williams sees patients at Bothwell Family Health and Bothwell OB/GYN Associates at the Healing Arts Center. Lute provides services to those same clinics as well as at Bothwell’s Warsaw clinic.

Since the program began, 250 patients from age 3 to their 90s have been seen by Lute, Gibson or Williams. The most common mental health diagnoses are adjustment concerns, depression, anxiety, trauma and caregiver stress. The length of treatment can be just one visit, while others may meet with a behavioral health specialist for five or six visits. When needed, the team can provide referrals to psychiatric services or long-term mental health services that are better served outside of primary care.

“In the clinics we serve, we see a lot of children and families struggling with ADHD, family stress or oppositional behaviors,” Lute said. “Others have chronic pain, diabetes or high blood pressure. Additionally, we see many women who benefit from extra support and care before, during and after pregnancy.”

The services are possible due to a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a partnership between Burrell Behavioral Health and Bothwell.

HRSA awarded the three-year grant to the National Psychology Training Consortium (NPTC), which is an internship program that prepares entry-level psychology practitioners to work in health care settings and provide mental health services. Burrell is a consortium partner and selected Bothwell because of a shared mission to create access to quality health care.

Gibson said the integrated behavioral health consultant model at Bothwell has “opened doors” that provides extra support for physicians who no longer need to refer patients elsewhere and allows patients access to more specialized care without waiting.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to help a patient understand what they’re experiencing and that there are skills and steps they can take to improve their symptoms and their overall quality of life,” she said.

Gibson and Williams will graduate with their doctoral degrees in psychology this spring and end their one-year clinical training in July. Lute said two new interns will join the program in August.

“Bothwell’s willingness to engage in this sustained integration of behavioral health providers into their primary care clinics is no small undertaking,” Lute said. “It would not be nearly as successful without the commitment of administration, as well as the hard work by the entire team, including customer care specialists, IT, billing, scheduling, nurses, providers and clinic directors.”