Dell Medical School launches new clinic for bipolar disorders

Stephanie Adeline

A new mental health clinic will lower costs for treatment of bipolar disorders, the sixth leading cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization.

The new clinic is co-operated by faculty physicians from the Dell Medical School and professionals from Integral Care, Travis County’s mental health authority.

Dr. Jorge Almeida, the clinic’s director, said one of the ways the clinic reduces costs is by focusing the care on the patient and integrating expertise of different specialists.

“The patient doesn’t have to move from specialist to specialist, from location to location,” Almeida said. “In contrast, the providers will meet the patient in one single place, so it lowers the cost because we also optimize the care in the lowest number of visits.”

Almeida said the clinic has been a success since it opened on Nov. 29 because of the great variety of patients it has served.

“We’ve already seen patients like homeless patients and patients who are not functioning and not being productive for several years, so we can provide specialized treatment and hopefully help them to increase their functioning level,” Almeida said.

Dr. Kathleen Casey, director of clinical innovation and development for Integral Care, said another way the clinic minimizes costs for patients is through focusing on early intervention.

“Individuals with mental illness that don’t get access to good care, that are left untreated, utilize emergency departments and other highly expensive crisis services disproportionately,” Casey said. “Moreover, the symptoms of their mental illness often result in interface with law enforcement. This is unnecessary and costly use of public dollars.”

Early intervention also allows patients with bipolar disorders to be productive members of society, Casey said.

“(They can) get back on their feet and live successful, happy lives,” Casey said. “They’re able to maintain academic performance, stay in school, get a job, maintain healthy relationships and live their dream like everybody else.”

The collaboration with Integral Care will expose medical students to community-based mental health care, such as care for people who are homeless and mentally ill, said Dr. James Baker, associate chair of clinical integration and services and systems chief medical officer for Integral Care.

“If you take community service expertise of Integral Care and combine it with the expertise in treating these disorders at the medical school, the quality of care and costs will both improve,” Baker said.