A New Care Model for Patients with Cancer and Serious Mental Illness

In 2016, the Collaborative Care and Community Engagement Program (ENGAGE) conducted the first-of-its-kind pilot study of a person-centered, team-based approach to cancer care for patients with schizophrenia and cancer. The approach was informed by the collaborative care model and personalized to address the specific challenge of cancer and mental illness as follows:

  • Person-centered care: Identifying goals and providing continuity across settings
  • Screening: Identifying patients at cancer diagnosis, maintaining population-based registry
  • Co-management: Partnering with the oncologist to adapt the cancer treatment plan
  • Interdisciplinary team: Psychiatry, Oncology, Social Work, Community- Based Clinicians
  • Collaboration across systems: Bridging oncology and community mental health.

Addressing an Unmet Need

Individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder die nearly 30 years earlier than the general population, and cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death among this group. People with serious mental illness are:

  • more than twice as likely to die from cancer,
  • less likely to receive timely, high quality cancer care, and
  • more likely to be excluded from clinical trials.

Access to early, integrated psychiatric care may improve cancer treatment for patients with mental illness.

A Caregiver’s Story: Kelly Grill

“We are going to stand in the light, and lean toward joy. That was our mantra.” “It was the first time I felt validated, and everything changed. We were able to change the medication and manage her anxiety. Things were manageable and it got better.” “I felt very alone in my amazing, wonderful family. Because we were the family that didn’t talk about mental illness, there had to be another reason why all this was happening.” “I now have the honor of raising my sister’s daughters. One thing I know that I can do is be their biggest cheerleader and biggest fan, see the best in them, and want the best for them. What I want for them and their generation, is I know that they have mental health issues – and we’ll be talking about it.” ~ Kelly Grill;
Family Caregiver & Director at Hopkinton Center for the Arts

Learn more about the Bridging the Divide Symposium

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“I wish there were more resources for myself as her caregiver – to know I wasn’t alone and to ease my mind so I wasn’t always worried about everything happening with her.”~ Kelly Grill