The Doctors Are In: One Stop Shop for Mental Health and Primary Care


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Fifty percent of all Americans with serious mental illness don’t ever get treatment. Countless others aren’t getting the support they need to kick chronic conditions, like obesity and substance abuse. Now there’s a renewed effort to provide behavioral health help right after a patient walks through his or her doctor’s front door.

For thirty-seven year old Heather Leppard her daily ride is one of the best parts of the day.

“I am moving and I feel happy,” Leppard told Ivanhoe.

Even better? Over the past year, Leppard is down thirty-two pounds after years of struggling with her weight.

Leppard said, “I had seen an endocrinologist. I had taken weight loss drugs. I exercised. I watched what I ate.”

What finally worked? Her family doctor introduced her to a behavioral health specialist and weight loss support group based right in the doctor’s office.

Cerissa L. Blaney, PhD, the behavioral health director at UCF Health in Orlando Florida, detailed, “Having the doctor actually introduce us to the patient significantly increases the chances they are going to engage in services.”

At University of Central Florida Health, doctors say 70 percent of all patients who get an in-office introduction make appointments for follow-up care.

Maria L. Cannarozzi, M.D., the medical director of UCF Health, said, “We’ve had patients who have been able to turn around their psychological illness with a combination of medical therapy and support.” (Read Full Interview)

Doctors say this model cuts down barriers to behavioral and mental health care. It reduces the stigma and slashes the wait time for referrals, often ninety days or more.  Leppard was being treated for rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. The weight loss had the added benefit of improving those conditions, too.

Leppard said, “I feel good.”

Doctors at UCF say they are able to control health costs with this model by relying on the university’s academic fellows as they train. Nationwide it’s hard to say how many health organizations are implementing this model, but one hundred groups recently received federal funding to integrate care.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.



TOPIC:       The Doctors Are In: One Stop Shop for Mental Health and Primary Care

REPORT:   MB #4222


BACKGROUND: Mental illness can affect a person’s feelings, emotions and mood, disturbing the way a person lives and connects with others. A mental health condition doesn’t occur just because of one event. It can develop as a result of:

  • Genetics
  • The environment
  • Lifestyle choices

Half of all mental health conditions start by age 14, and 75 percent of all mental health conditions develop by the age of 24.

MORE THAN ONE DISEASE: People who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse disorders may pass away due to other forms of illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Patients may develop these conditions due to poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, smoking, and substance abuse.  As many as half of all Americans with a serious mental illness will not receive treatment because of a shortage of psychologists, long time wait times, and/or social stigma.(Source: &

INTEGRATIVE CARE: The integrative care model consists of integrating mental health, substance abuse and primary care services at the same time in order to improve quality and access of care. Researchers say fewer than 20 percent of the patients who receive referrals for mental or behavioral health services actually follow though and seek additional medical help. Researchers indicate the integrative care model cuts down barriers between behavioral and mental health care, reduces stigma and reduces the wait time for referrals. By utilizing an academic training model with clinical psychology doctoral trainees, University of Central Florida Health does not have to rely on a payer system.
(Source:, Dr. Cerissa L.  Blaney & Dr. Maria L. Cannarozzi)



Megan Pabian


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at


Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Maria L. Cannarozzi, M.D.

Read the entire Q&A