UCHealth Places Behavioral Health Experts into Primary Care Clinics for Access to Mental Health Needs

UCHealth Medical Center is now open at 6767 29th St. More than a dozen UCHealth medical clinics and services from other locations in Greeley moved to the center at the end of April and are now caring for patients in the new space. Additional clinics will move into the new facility later this year. UCHealth Greeley Hospital, which is next door to the medical center, will open this summer. Photo by Kelly Tracer, UCHealth.

Behavioral health experts have begun working hand-in-hand with primary care physicians at nearly 30 UCHealth primary care clinics state-wide to provide crucial resources to patients dealing with anxiety, depression, or other challenges.

These new services come in part of a commitment UCHealth made last year to invest in at least $100 million into behavioral health services. UCHealth aims to integrate the new specialists in most of its nearly 60 primary care clinics in the next months to meet demands for services.

“Our model is to increase access to these needed services while reducing stigma,” said Elicia Bunch, vice president of behavioral health for UCHealth. “Now, when patients go to their primary care clinic, they are able to get their physical and emotional needs met in the same setting,” Elicia said.

Longtime internal medicine physician in Greeley, Dr. Daniel Zenk, said he sees a sense of relief in patients when he communicates to them that he can refer them to a specialist whose office is in the same building.

Dr. Daniel Zenk. Photo courtesy of UCHealth.

“When you take away the barriers – like the hassle of finding a professional, the step of scheduling an appointment, the concern about going somewhere you’ve never been before and uncertainty about whether your insurance will cover it or not – you make it easier and more comfortable for patients to get the help they need,” Daniel said. “It’s a huge relief for them and makes it more likely that they’ll get the care,” said Daniel.

Patients can receive referrals to a specialist for many reasons from depression and anxiety to help manage behavioral issues that impact their medical condition, such as stress management for high blood pressure.

Rachel Slick has also helped patients cope with the emotional stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the current political climate.  A Colorado Health Foundation poll released in September discovered that half of the Coloradans surveyed reported they had experienced mental health strain due to the virus.

Rachel Slick. Photo courtesy of UCHealth.

“Not everyone has a mental disorder or a substance use diagnosis, but, like physical health, everyone has mental health,” Rachel said. “These changes are difficult to cope with one at a time, let alone all at once like this year has presented.”

More on UCHealth’s behavioral health/primary care services are as follows:

  • How can I get help with behavioral health care?
    If you are already a patient at a primary care practice with a behavioral health therapist, you can seek a referral from your primary care provider to see the expert. A list of primary care clinics currently offering behavioral health services to existing patients can be found at www.uchealth.org/services/primary-care/.
  • Does insurance cover behavioral health visits?
    Patients will want to check on their insurance plan specifics, but visits should be covered just like any other primary care visit because of UCHealth’s integrated focus on this care.
  • Will UCHealth continue to add behavioral health experts?
    Yes. Throughout the rest of 2020 and 2021, UCHealth will continue to add behavioral health experts to primary care clinics.
  • What do I do if I need help immediately?
    If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 911 or go to your local emergency room. Colorado Crisis Services also offers 24-7-365 support for mental health crisis by calling 844-493-TALK (8255) or texting TALK to 38255.

“During this time of unrest, ‘wellness’ may mean limiting news and media consumption,” Rachel said. “If we do not take time for our wellness, we will be forced to make time for our illness.”


For more information regarding UCHealth, visit: http://www.uchealth.org/