They say it takes a village to raise a child. When it comes to keeping one healthy, that’s also true. Just ask Laura Leone, DSW, MSSW, LMSW, an integrated health consultant for the National Council. With more than 20 years of experience under her behavioral health belt, Laura works closely with organizations and individuals to help them adopt and improve their integrated health approach to care delivery. I recently sat down with Laura to learn more about her consulting journey, the integrated health model and her leadership style.
NICHOLAS THOMAS: Did you always want to be a consultant?
LAURA LEONE: If you told me when I started out as a social work student that I would be a consultant, teaching people and training organizations one day, I would’ve said, ‘No, that’s not me. I love clinical work and improving patient outcomes.’ But then I discovered a passion for professional development while working for one of the largest federally qualified health centers in New York, where I served in a variety of roles and worked with staff from all disciplines.
I found a new joy in imparting knowledge and helping others to help others. And I thought, ‘I want to do more of this!’ At the time, I knew people who worked at the National Council, and I had presented at NatCon before. When the opportunity to become a consultant at the National Council arrived, I was fortunate enough to be in a position to make that transition. Now, in my role as an integrated health consultant, I get to live vicariously through my clients, so I don’t feel too far removed from the patient care aspect.
NT: How would you describe your leadership style and consulting approach?
LL: I try to be fun and engaging, as well as informative. I take a relational approach to the work I do. I provide comfort and respect, while building engagement from the beginning of the inquiry. When people are looking to make changes, they will absorb more information and be more forthcoming with their struggles when they feel comfortable and respected. Whether I’m teaching new techniques or coaching someone through a change process, it’s all about being flexible; not being afraid to shift or change a plan. That’s part of my approach. Having humility and using humor works too.
NT: For those unfamiliar with the integrated health model, how would you explain it?
LL: It’s a more coordinated and collaborative form of care provision – it involves everyone. There’s as much value in a diabetes educator talking about diabetes as a janitor pushing a broom across a waiting room. Everyone has an important piece to add. It’s about honoring their individual expertise and getting the most out of it as the team, which includes the client, effectively communicates and works together. And it’s about using that collective value to help someone … not with just one concern but helping with their whole self-care. Everything that plays into a person’s overall health and wellness.
NT: What should organizations keep in mind when pursuing this model?
LL: It depends on the context they’re coming from and where they want to go. An organization focused on substance use, for example, may not offer mental health or physical health care, so their approach may be different. Some foundational pieces to consider include understanding their current level of integration, goal of integration over a period of time and use of evidence-based practices.
It’s also important to think about the continuum of care they offer, both low-touch and high-touch. How are they making sure they have the connections to provide that continuum of care, internally or externally? Integrated health spans beyond a program or the walls of an organization. It’s about the community and other stakeholders that can provide services.
NT: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not setting clients up for success?
LL: I really like to sing! I used to perform in musicals and choir groups. We would sing and dance in groups like they did on the TV show, ‘Glee.’ I’ve since channeled that passion into a love for karaoke.
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National Council for Mental Wellbeing