Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) Holds Webinar on Behavioral Health and Primary Care Integration

Media Contacts: Charlie Patterson, 202-680-8132,
Erin Grandstaff, 202-570-0510,

Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) Holds Webinar on
Behavioral Health and Primary Care Integration

January 19, 2017 Washington, D.C. – The Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) hosted a webinar yesterday to discuss the innovative approaches that not-for-profit, community-based health plans are using to integrate primary care and behavioral health.

“About 1 in 5 American adults have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness, and substance abuse issues in this country are more pertinent than ever. Addiction and substance abuse have forced millions of Americans to grapple with alarming mortality rates, health setbacks, social and family complications and significant economic woes,” said ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly. “Streamlining primary care operations with behavioral health services has proven to be effective in treating these kinds of issues and has resulted in positive patient outcomes, but access to high-quality, integrated care has not kept pace with rates of mental illness and other behavioral health issues. Initiatives like the ones ACHP plans have started are key to combating some of our most pressing health, public safety and economic issues.”

Presenters from the following organizations highlighted how integrating care models can streamline delivery and result in better patient outcomes:

  • SAMHSA is helping communities provide coordinated and integrated services by co-locating primary and specialty care services in community-based mental and behavioral health settings. The program has awarded grants to more than 215 organizations across the United States.

“Most people with mental illnesses do not die from mental illnesses, it is the co-occurring physical conditions that often do not get addressed in specialty behavioral health that eventually causes their death. The objective of integrating behavioral care and primary care is to support the triple aim of improving the health of those with serious mental illnesses, enhancing the consumer’s experience of care and reducing and controlling the per capita cost of care,” said Christopher Carroll, director of health care financing and systems integration at SAMHSA.

  • Independent Health has fully integrated behavioral health consultants within nine patient-centered medical homes, resulting in high patient satisfaction and significantly increased screening rates for mental health and substance abuse. Within a 24-month period, more than 5,000 unique patients were able to meet with a consultant.

“We integrate behavioral health across our entire network. Our utilization management, care management and disease management are deeply integrated with our medical management for all lines of business,” said Dr. Judith Feld, medical director of behavioral health at Independent Health.

“We’ve also been very active in educating our communities, joining our community-wide opiate task force efforts in better prescribing opiates especially in the pain management area. We are fortunate that we are a close community and have some excellent philanthropic organizations that are very committed to the health and wellbeing of the community,” said Feld.

  •  UPMC Health Plan and the UPMC Insurance Division is integrating primary care and behavioral health with programs that support co-location of behavioral health specialists at primary care sites, place care managers within primary care practices to aid care coordination and reverse co-locate wellness nurses in behavioral health settings. Through these and other programs, UPMC has enhanced the quality of life for participating members, lowered readmission rates and increased adherence to treatment recommendations.

In support of its commitment to behavioral health UPMC Health Plan and the UPMC Insurance Division recognizes the importance of encouraging proactive screening.

“We’ve also created payments for lots of behavioral health assessment work including both screening and substance abuse assessments. One of the quality indicators we’ve been able to add over this past year is screening for depression. As we’ve been doing a number of initiatives to enhance the screening rate for depression, the number of screens has really increased dramatically and we expect it to continue to grow dramatically over the next few years,” said Dr. James Schuster, vice president, behavioral health at UPMC Health Plan and the UPMC Insurance Division.

  • The Permanente Medical Group uses Kaiser Permanente’s evidence-based, collaborative-care approach to depression treatment to help adult members who have been newly diagnosed with mild-to-moderate depression and who have started an antidepressant. Data suggest that program participants have significantly lower depression levels compared to similar members, as well as higher rates of antidepressant adherence.

    Mason Turner, director, outpatient mental health and addiction medicine services at The Permanente Medical Group provided some of his thoughts on obstacles facing implementation of integrated care.

“The biggest challenge is really one of training and really one of helping therapists, psychiatrists and physicians understand that the kind of approaches that we use in an integrated behavioral healthcare setting are very different than what you may use in a specialty psychiatry department, for example. We have to think about how we provide the care in the setting and how we integrate into the primary care workflows,” said Dr. Turner.

The report, Community Health Plan Strategies for Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care, can be accessed here.

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