ATLANTA — Atlanta’s Skyland Trail is one of the first mental health treatment facilities in the country to open an on-site, full-time primary care clinic for its clients.
“People with mental illness have a 20 percent shorter life-expectancy than the general population,” said Ray Kotwicki, M.D., M.P.H., and medical director of Skyland Trail. “They are vulnerable to a number of physical illnesses including: diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, emphysema and lung cancer. Psychiatrists and primary care physicians have rarely coordinated their treatment efforts, but we are launching a new model at Skyland Trail.”
Kotwicki said Skyland Trail recognized the treatment gap and opened a primary care clinic part-time in 2006. Opening the primary care clinic full-time means greater efficiency for Skyland Trail and their clients:
- It will reduce client admission time by two days, because clients will not have to go to an outside doctor for a physical exam prior to admission.
- Many of the medications that people with mental illness take require regular blood tests. The full-time clinic enables clients to be tested on-site, without requiring Skyland Trail to transport them to a physician’s office or disrupt their treatment for mental illness. The clinic also allows for on-site health screenings, which can include cancer screenings, identification and early treatment of cardiometabolic syndrome, etc.
- Visiting a doctor’s office can be a difficult experience for a person with mental illness, but an on-site clinic provides them a comfortable setting that they are already familiar with.
- The clinic incorporates a wellness education program for groups and individuals (smoking cessation, healthy eating, exercise, avoiding diabetes, high risk drug and sexual behaviors)
In any year, one in four people live with a mental disorder, meaning that most people are impacted by mental illness. Skyland Trail’s full-time primary care clinic addresses the need to coordinate treatment efforts between psychiatrists and physicians for people living with mental illness. We serve clients in Atlanta, throughout Georgia and southeast, and from all over the country.