Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABBPAmy Sullivan, PsyD, ABBP
Meeting the all the needs of patients, including those related to mental health, is among the top priorities for clinicians when treating individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). The heightened ability to change and adapt treatment strategies with input from multiple experts is what separates interdisciplinary care from other methods of care. 

As the director of behavioral medicine at the Mellen Center for MS Treatment and Research at Cleveland Clinic, Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABBP, has a strong passion for utilizing interdisciplinary care and behavioral medicine into standard MS care practices. Sullivan is expected to present “Science, Art, and Practice of Behavioral Medicine,” at the 2020 Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis (CMSC) Virtual Annual Meeting, May 26–29.
 
WATCH NOW: Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABBP: Interdisciplinary Care in MS
 
Sullivan discussed the details of how MS care can be altered for the better with both of these treatment strategies, as well as an provided an outline of the stigmas associated with behavioral medicine care in MS.

NeurologyLive: What is the importance of interdisciplinary care in MS?

Amy Sullivan, MD: Interdisciplinary care is the wave of the future for patients with MS. At the Mellen Center, we’ve been really lucky to have this for several decades. It is so important because we all look at the patient from a different angle. When we’re able to do that, and come together, we give the patient a better opportunity to have a better outcome. We’re treating them from the mind, the body—really everything that the patient needs. 

What is the greatest need that can be met by incorporating behavioral medicine into care? What work still needs to be done?

There is a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of creating a behavioral medicine practice in all of these major multidisciplinary centers. I don’t think that MS care is complete without behavioral medicine. The statistics in my presentation show that depression and anxiety occur 3 to 4 times as often in a patient with MS than the general population. If we’re not treating their behavioral medicine needs, we’re not treating them correctly as a whole. It is imperative that we start putting more emphasis on behavioral medicine and the MS care.

Are there any roadblocks or hesitancy for patients to switch to this care? Do you feel as though there needs to be an increased awareness of and education on this type of care?

There are several roadblocks for our patients. First and foremost, there has been a stigma around mental health, but I think that has decreased. Some high-powered athletes, including my favorite, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, have come out and talked about the importance of behavioral medicine and normalizing treating symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is really helping society with understanding that its normal to have your mental health needs met. That being said, there are still additional roadblocks to that stigma. Insurance can be one of the biggest issues. Although there is parity law, there’s still a copay with it. I think getting to the practice can be difficult. I also believe providers sometimes don’t focus on behavioral medicine needs because they don’t know where to send that person. They know the importance of this, but they don’t know what to do when they see the symptoms and sometimes they will put it to the side.

Transcript edited for clarity. For more coverage of CMSC 2020, click here.
REFERENCE
Sullivan A. Science, Art, and Practice of Behavioral Medicine. Presented at: CMSC 2020; May 26-29, 2020.