People with serious mental illness suffer significantly higher rates of chronic medical conditions than the general population and die, on average, 25 years younger. These increased levels of morbidity and mortality are largely due to preventable causes including a high prevalence of modifiable risk factors, a lack of adequate preventative care, and the side effects of some psychiatric medicines. Chronic medical illness is a major obstacle to recovery from serious mental illness. Mental health providers have a responsibility to ensure that their clients have access to preventive healthcare, and to contribute to the integration of their clients’ behavioral and medical care.
Joseph Parks, MD, is the current Director of the MO HealthNet Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services. He previously served as the Chief Clinical Officer for the Missouri Department of Mental Health in Jefferson City. He holds the position of Distinguished Research Professor of Science at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and Director of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health. In addition, he serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri, Department of Psychiatry in Columbia and as President of the Medical Director’s Council of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. He practices psychiatry on an outpatient basis at Family Health Center, a federally funded community health center established to expand services to uninsured and underinsured patients in the Columbia area. He recently served as the Division Director for the Division of Comprehensive Psychiatric Services for the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
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