This 'root cause' for behavioral health concerns isn't being talked about, CEO says

Behavioral health has been siloed within healthcare until recent years, but it can affect all fields in the industry. One of the biggest contributors to behavioral health is housing — a fact that isn't given the attention it deserves, one expert says.

Susan Ehrlich, MD, CEO of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, spoke with Becker's about issues in behavioral health that aren't being talked about.

Note: Response has been edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Dr. Susan Ehrlich: Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center is the city’s only 24/7 psychiatric emergency service, and we serve everyone in the city, irrespective of insurance coverage. Almost all of our revenues come from Medicaid and Medicare. 

Most of the services we provide – from trauma care to primary care – have integrated behavioral health services. We have no shortage of demand – we’ve seen an increase in people presenting to us with mental health and substance abuse issues over the past few years. 

The main root cause issue that our patients face that people don’t understand or talk about in connection with behavioral health care is the lack of affordable, supportive housing. With better, more stable housing and residential treatment options, our patients would be better able to engage in mental health and substance abuse treatment. Fortunately, our city is actively engaged in buying and building these resources; it is a very expensive and slow journey.

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