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Primary Care Doctors Carrying Heavier Mental Health Load

Local News
BIG FLATS, N.Y. (18-NEWS) – One half of mental health patients rely solely on their primary care doctor, which has some in the medical field questioning if primary care doctors are carrying a heavier mental health load.

Would you ask a Cardiologist to deliver your baby? How about an Obstetrician to control your diabetes?
Most likely not, so why are so many primary care doctors diagnosing mental health issues?

Doctor Brian Cassetta said, “I think it would be unethical for a primary care doctor not to help a patient with mental health issues.”


For 27 years Doctor Cassetta’s daily routine is treating sore throats, completing physical exams, and most recently diagnosing depression.

“I think each provider has their own comfort zone of how far they want to go treating depression and mental health issues.”

His limits with mental health diagnosis’s can sometimes be a blurry thing. Is it okay for him to help the newly divorced single mom but not the soldier suffering with PTSD; not in his eyes.

“Listening to what the patient has to say is really the key to helping a patient with mental illness and sometimes that is all it takes to treat depression is to listen to what they have to say, offer follow up, and support.”

A 2009 study from the University of North Carolina found we need 25.9 psychiatrists per one hundred thousand people to treat everyone with a severe mental illness. But researchers found there was only 10 per one hundred thousand. Due to the lack of this type of health providers Doctor Cassetta and Psychologist D’Ortona decided to team up together.

Matthew D’Ortona, a psychologist in the Elmira area said, “I work closely with many primary care doctors. In terms of treatment and them providing medication it is all based on what the patient is comfortable doing, are they comfortable with the doctor, it all works out very well.”

Even though there is a high demand for mental health care providers in 2015 there is still a stigma attached to a patient coming in and out of these types of offices.

“Many people are more comfortable going to their primary care doctor, if there is some mental health concerns, depression, anxiety, because it is convenient, good relationship, doctors know them well, just easier and more comfortable for them.”

However with education, good ole fashion talking and sometimes medication, doctors believe the you, you know and love, will come out and shine once again.

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