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Skyland Trail Achieves Behavioral Health Home Certification from The Joint Commission

October 16, 2018

ATLANTA – Skyland Trail today announced it has earned Behavioral Health Home Certification from The Joint Commission. The certification demonstrates Skyland Trail’s commitment to the integration and coordination of behavioral health care services and primary physical health services through a rigorous process of external validation by recognized experts in the field.

“Skyland Trail has demonstrated its ability to provide services that address the physical and behavioral health needs of the whole person, which can improve overall satisfaction with the care experience,” said Julia Finken, RN, BSN, MBA, CSSBB, CPHQ, executive director, Behavioral Health Care Accreditation Program, The Joint Commission.

Skyland Trail underwent a rigorous onsite survey on September 25, 2018. During the review, a Joint Commission expert surveyor evaluated compliance with a set of standards that focus on the integration and coordination of person-centered health care in order to improve the quality of life for individuals with mental illness or other behavioral health conditions.

“We are delighted to receive Behavioral Health Home Certification from The Joint Commission, the premier health care quality improvement and accrediting body in the nation,” added Raymond J. Kotwicki, MD, MPH, Skyland Trail Charles B. West Chief Medical Officer. “It is a mark of distinction that confirms our commitment to integrated care and healthy futures for the patients we serve.”

Launched in January 2014, the certification is available to organizations accredited under The Joint Commission’s Behavioral Health Care Accreditation Program and is awarded for a three-year cycle. Organizations may achieve the certification by providing primary physical health services directly or by coordinating care with physical health care providers.

The Glenn Family Wellness Clinic is an important part of the holistic treatment program at Skyland Trail and serves as a coordination center for patients’ integrated medical care while they are enrolled in residential treatment, day treatment and IOP programs.

During their first few weeks of treatment, patients receive a comprehensive medical assessment in the Clinic that includes a history & physical and comprehensive laboratory screenings. As part of this initial visit, clinic staff help patients develop a set of goals for their physical health, for example improving nutrition, increasing regular exercise, lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, quitting nicotine use, or meeting preventive care recommendations like annual dentist visits, eye exams or disease screenings. These wellness goals are included in the patients’ treatment plans along with their goals for improved psychiatric health.

Throughout treatment, patients participate in routine wellness visits at the Clinic to receive help with ongoing health issues as well as education on disease prevention and long-term wellness. If specialized care is needed, the treatment team will help schedule appointments with third-party healthcare providers in the community and will arrange transportation if required.

In additional to services in the Glenn Family Wellness Clinics, some clients may choose to participate in our Healthy Challenge program, which is an extra level of education and support to reduce the risk of cardiometabolic syndrome. Individuals with mental illnesses face particular risk for developing heart, pulmonary, and energy problems, collectively called "cardiometabolic syndrome." High Body Mass Index (BMI), hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, hypertension, and hyperglycemia are the components of this syndrome. Two classes of medications used to treat individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression – atypical antipsychotics and mood stabilizers – are known to exacerbate the problem, as are a number of the correlates of severe mental illness including a sedentary lifestyle and social isolation.

Patients who participate in Healthy Challenge receive access to a personal trainer for weight control and to promote lean muscle mass. They also receive a low-carbohydrate, high-lean-protein meal plan; psycho-education about the link between physical and mental health; nutritional education; meditation and relaxation classes, including yoga.

“Mental health involves the whole body, not just the brain,” says Kotwicki. “Emerging data indicate that some physical health measures and psychiatric outcomes may be linked. For example patients who experience an improvement in their body mass index, average blood glucose, or dental health may be more likely to experience improved mental health symptoms and functionality.”

The Skyland Trail holistic approach to wellness includes ensuring that clients have the education, treatment and care they need for healthy futures. The Glenn Family Wellness Clinic helps coordinate many of the pieces of that puzzle. Clients graduate from Skyland Trail residential treatment and day treatment programs with an understanding of the importance of caring for their health as well as the skills needed to protect and improve their health through healthy living and preventive care.