Door County Medical Center, Sturgeon Bay, 2022 Community Benefits

The Challenges of Helping Those with Behavioral Health Issues

“Access to behavioral services in our community is a significant issue,” Door County Medical Center’s (DCMC) Behavioral Health Coordinator Barb Johnson-Giese, said. “In Door County, the ratio of population to mental health providers is 715:1. The ratio in the state of Wisconsin is currently 440:1, which ranks 34th in the nation.”

An unfortunate reality for medical professionals in the Door County community and beyond is that physicians are increasingly pressured to diagnose and treat mental and behavioral health problems that they are often not adequately trained to diagnose or treat. The reason for this discrepancy is that as many as 70% of primary care visits are driven by patients’ psychological problems, such as anxiety, panic, depression, and stress. Furthermore, more than 80% of patients with medically unexplained symptoms receive psychosocial treatment in primary care by a physician—and yet, only about 10% will follow up on a referral to a mental health provider that is not conveniently located.

“The lack of mental health providers was identified as the #1 need in Door County, as 20% of the population in the U.S. experiences some type of mental health problems during a one-year period,” Johnson-Giese added. “In addition, mental health problems lead to increases in other chronic health conditions, and it’s paramount to treat the whole person.”
With this information in mind, DCMC has taken the initiative to provide services to address the needs of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit alike. DCMC offers three service lines, depending on the individual needs of any given patient. 

DCMC’s first behavioral health service line includes psychotherapy services, focused on addressing all mental health concerns including but not limited to: depression, mood issues, stress management, anxiety, family & personal relationships, parenting concerns, work-related stress or conflicts, grief & loss, abuse or other types of trauma, and emotional issues related to health & medical concerns.

The second service line includes behavioral health psychiatric services such as mental health needs that may benefit from medication, addressing all mental health concerns and diagnoses.

The third service line includes Senior Life Solutions, which aims to address some of the problematic changes that aging brings about, including anxiety, changes in appetite, depression, difficulty sleeping, and more. 

An Increase in Volume Demands a Capacity Increase
As a result of the huge increase in patient volume that has been observed in recent years, DCMC is working hard to increase its patient capacity. For context, about 20% of American adults are currently experiencing a mental illness, equivalent to nearly 50 million people. In Wisconsin, 20.19% of adults—just over 900,000—are currently experiencing some form of mental illness. These numbers reflect a growing trend since March of 2020. For providers, this is like fighting an uphill battle.