“I researched what the model should look like and how to successfully embed LCSWs within our primary care practices,” Matthews said. “Our model is being built in collaboration with our LCSWs, who share their expertise. There is so much opportunity to help expand the care our patients receive.”
There are a few ways patients may be referred, including through self-referrals and by primary care providers. Family medicine social workers also partner with UF Health emergency room case managers to ensure discharged patients get the services they need. They also connect with UF Health Psychiatry – Jacksonville, which may refer less severe patient cases.
Chelsea Foote, LSCW, who sees patients with anxiety, mood disorders or cancer, practices at four UF Health family medicine practices in Jacksonville. Foote emphasizes that although the stigma around mental health lessened since COVID-19 arrived, it is still important for patients to feel comfortable seeking treatment.
“People want access to mental health resources, and they already feel safe and comfortable at their primary care office,” Foote said.
When patients attend a primary care appointment, they will complete a screening questionnaire to assess for anxiety and depression symptoms. If they score high, it may serve as an alert to the physician for further evaluation. The physician may recommend mental health care, such as therapy, and introduce the patient to the social worker.
“Our role is to help and support, never to judge. Patients often feel comfortable and safe knowing that it’s a judgment-free zone. We can be an objective party to help find solutions to issues taking place in someone’s life,” Foote said. “We also connect patients to community resources and help break down barriers to meet their needs.”