Colorado Springs Business Journal
February 6, 2015
By Bryan Grossman
One’s physical and mental health are inseparable. That, according to Mike Kenny, a clinical psychologist and director of the Aging Center located in the University of Colorado Colorado Springs campus’ Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences. Kenny said the two become more intertwined as we age, but often support systems exist only for the physical aspects of senior care.
“We don’t honor aging in our culture,” Kenny said, adding loneliness, isolation and depression are common themes addressed at the behavioral health clinic.
The Aging Center was established off-campus in 1999 with four part-time employees, three graduate students and 70 patients, and has steadily expanded over the past 15 years. Today, the clinic has a patient and caregiver roster of more than 2,500, and Kenny now oversees a staff of four additional clinical psychologists, a clinical neuropsychologist, numerous program coordinators and 14 graduate students comprised of two master’s students, one University of Denver extern student and 11 doctoral students.
The Aging Center, according to its website, “is currently one of only a few geropsychology training clinics in the nation linking the academic standards of excellence and innovative clinical training with the practical needs of the community.”
The behavioral health facility is one of five integrated care clinics in the Lane Center, which also provides services involving nutrition, exercise and primary care, as well as a veterans health and trauma clinic, all under one roof. The HealthCircle, as it’s known, provides psychological counseling services via its aging center, ranging from individual to group therapy as well as specialized caregiver therapy. In addition, the center provides cognitive assessments and a memory clinic.
Kenny said, while care was not often integrated in the past, the mental well-being of the senior population directly correlates to its physical health.
“To integrate those particular services is fairly unique in trying to keep people healthy no matter where they’re at in the aging spectrum,” said Mike Bigelow, the Lane Center’s senior executive for clinical activities. “All the things [the Aging Center does] are so valuable. … Everybody ages at a different pace and in a different way, but everybody is concerned with [cognition]. They can come here and get a professional assessment and professional guidance and direction. It’s really a unique service for the community and it’s highly utilized.”
Whether dealing with a broken leg or the death of a spouse, the physiological and psychological effects can be similar, Kenny said.
“Those suffering from mental distress may also suffer from medical conditions,” he said. “The auto-immune system can be affected by stress, so [the senior population] may be more apt to suffer cognitive declines as a result.”
The clinic’s psychological evaluations serve to diagnose age-related stressors, Kenny said, to include issues such as role changes and retirement, and coping with the emotional stress of losing a loved one.
A regional need
Kenny said there are an estimated 17,000 older adults in the region who have a diagnosable mental health condition.
“Sixty-seven percent of those don’t receive services,” he said. “The costs extrapolated from the national data indicate those untreated conditions cost the country $100 billion annually.”
Kenny said costs increase across the spectrum of care when mental health is neglected.
“It amounts to an increase of 50 to 200 percent higher costs,” he said, including more emergency room visits.
Kenny said the clinic actively pursues grants to help defray the costs of services and to expand existing services. The clinic was awarded, for instance, $26,000 in November 2014 by the Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging to support the first funded integrated care project at the Lane Center.
The grant, which will end in June, is helping integrate behavioral health, nutrition and physical activity, according to Kenny.
“Through this project, clients who are already receiving mental health treatment from Aging Center clinicians, both at the Aging Center and Peak Vista’s Lane Family Health Center, will be able to improve their overall health at no cost to them by receiving services at the co-located Center for Active Living and Peak Nutrition Clinic,” according to a UCCS newsletter explaining the grant. “Interested clients will benefit from comprehensive assessments and recommendations for physical activity and weight-loss programs.”
Help for all
According to Kenny, the Aging Center does not accept insurance, but has never turned anyone away for an inability to pay. He said individual and group therapy is free for the first six sessions, and then payment transitions to a sliding scale based on income.
According to Bigelow, the other Lane Center clinics do deal with insurers, but the integrated care model helps keep costs down for patients and providers.
“This type of model creates better value,” he said. “Better health for patients means better economics, and that saves the individual money. If you’re healthier, you don’t have associated health care costs,” Bigelow said. As an example, he said the Lane Center utilizes a single patient record system to eliminate redundancies.
Additionally, Kenny said students benefit because they get practical, hands-on clinical experience before graduation, which translates into internships following graduation.
“All of our students have gone on to match with their first or second choices for internships following graduation,” he said. “The [national] average is closer to 70 or 75 percent.”
Lane Center for Academic Health Services
UCCS HealthCircle clinics:
- Center for Active Living
- Aging Center
- Primary Care Clinic
- Peak Nutrition Clinic
- Veteran Health and Trauma Clinic
Address: 4863 N. Nevada Ave.
In addition to the UCCS-affiliated clinics, the Lane Center also houses a Peak Vista Community Health Center branch as well as a floor dedicated to a branch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. According to Tom Hutton, executive director of university communications and media relations, the medical school branch is only affiliated with UCCS via its connection to the University of Colorado system; UCCS students will not be involved. Administration is currently occupying that space, and a few dozen students will begin clinical and hospital rotations from that location beginning in 2016.
“The general public won’t see much difference at UCCS, but those students will be [active] at local hospitals like Memorial, Penrose and St. Francis,” Hutton said.