Rebecca Shoaf Kozak, LICSW, provides integrated behavioral health services to patients during the time of their primary care visits
Although she has only been at the health center for a few short months, Rebecca Shoaf Kozak is eager to make an impact on patients struggling with urgent behavioral health needs. Her role as an integrated behavioral health clinician allows her to be available to counsel patients and address mental health-related concerns while patients are on-site for other visits; a practice Bowdoin has implemented to increase access for patients to receive the specific care that they need in a timely manner. With a great deal of past experience dealing with complex patient care needs, Shoaf Kozak understands the importance of being able to have this regular integration with primary care teams.
“Being able to discuss a patient with a provider, and to then have a warm hand off to a patient in that same moment is wonderful” she says. “I’m able to do a quick assessment of the patient’s needs, and the partnership between providers seems to help patients feel more comfortable engaging in initial services.” Ideally, this collaboration across disciplines will lead to urgent patient concerns and psychosocial needs being addressed before these issues become unmanageable.
Shoaf Kozak also hopes to continue to gain momentum and increase the utilization of her specific services across patient populations over time. “We have a wonderful way to get people connected to behavioral health care in a way that works for them,” she affirms. “The flexibility of my role allows me to meet patients where they are at, whether they want my assistance setting up immediate and frequent meetings with a mental health provider, or whether they simply want me to give them a call or check in with them the next time they are in the health center for an appointment.” She adds that she believes the flexibility of what she is able to offer patients will help alleviate some of the pressure for them to commit to services more rigorous than they are ready for. “We often deal with the most marginalized of populations,” she continues. Not everyone can commit to physically coming into the health center once per week for appointments, and my role helps me to understand the basic needs of these patients, and how teams at the health center can best support their behavioral health care.”
The behavioral health team plans to track PHQ-9 scores to gauge the impact of Shoaf Kozak’s role, and patients’ more immediate connection to resources, on things such as a decrease in the number of patients who report symptoms of depression.