With more than 40 million Americans diagnosed with a mental illness, primary care providers are often called upon to address mental health needs as part of the routine care they provide. However, nearly 85 percent of primary care practices are not prepared to handle severe mental health concerns, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. When behavioral and general health work in tandem, primary care facilities are better equipped to treat mental illness and improve patient outcomes.
ACHP held a webinar on Wednesday, January 18 to highlight the ways community health plans are combining primary care and behavioral health to better deliver care. Panel members from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Independent Health, UPMC and Kaiser Permanente explained why care integration is necessary, shared successful examples and best practices and answered questions from webinar participants.
Better integration is increasingly shown to help streamline care, reduce stigma around mental health and boost access to treatment, according to the panelists. Additionally, care coordination can help reduce costs. Nearly 70 percent of adults in the United States with a mental illness also have at least one chronic physical condition. A diagnosis of multiple chronic conditions is costly for both patients and the health care system, explained Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Health Care Financing and Systems Integration Director Christopher Carroll.
ACHP’s nonprofit, community health plans work to improve care for those with mental illness, while also reducing costs and creating better quality of life for patients. During the webinar, representatives from ACHP members Independent Health and UPMC described successful programs at the health plans. Independent Health, based in Buffalo, New York, integrated behavioral health consultants in nine medical homes. Eight of the practices maintained the behavioral health programs without grant funding, and Independent saw a significant increase in the use of screening tools. UMPC Health Plan in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, implemented several innovative programs. Providers were offered assistance via phone or email to help with referral coordination, transfers to psychiatrists and case management. In the Rx for Wellness initiative, providers wrote prescriptions for programs to supplement treatment or change behavior. UMPC also made behavioral therapy available online to all members through its Beating the Blues program.
Through programs like the ones featured during the webinar, ACHP members are leading the way on creative approaches to improving health care and making their communities better places to live.
For more information on how ACHP members are integrating care, view the presentation slides and recording from the webinar here.