Community Mental Health Centers
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Integrating mental and physical health care is perhaps the most effective solution to increase access to mental health treatment for most people, improve diagnostic rates and treatment success, and lower the cost of patients with physical and mental health disorders. Primary care is the most common entry point for those seeking health care. It is becoming a focal point of health care reform efforts as the “quarterback” of care, with growing responsibilities for managing the health of individuals and their families over time.
Return on every dollar spent for collaborative primary care.1“Navigating the New Frontier of Mental Health and Addiction: A Guide for the 115th Congress” (The Kennedy Forum, 2017), https://www.thekennedyforum.org/resources/$23.95
Savings per member from integrating psychologist into primary care practice.2Kaile M. Ross et al., “The Cost Effectiveness of Embedding a Behavioral Health Clinician into an Existing Primary Care Practice to Facilitate the Integration of Care: A Prospective, Case-Control Program Evaluation,” Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings 26, no. 1 (March 2019): 59–67, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10880-018-9564-9.$800
Today, primary care providers do end up providing the majority of mental health care — more patients seek mental health care in primary care than in any other health system setting, and primary care providers prescribe more mental health medications than any other provider type.
The way we pay for mental health care, addiction services, and primary care reinforces their siloed nature. We need financial models that better support mental health and addiction treatment onsite in primary care. This requires a move away from volume-based payment methods, focused on fees for services, to value-based payment methods that are more flexible, outcomes-based, and support integrated teams.
Every year, thousands of new primary care providers enter the field – and most won’t have had training on integrated care. Of those already in practice, few receive any support in learning new skills and practice models for integrated care. Mental health care is not so different from the countless other health conditions primary care providers confront, but without training, effectively addressing it becomes an unreasonable expectation. Structured training opportunities for those both pre-service and in-service is critical for making mental health a standard part of primary care.
To be effective, mental health solutions need to address individuals' range of identities based on race, ethnicity, language, gender, or gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, veteran's status, or life circumstances. We recommend meaningful policies to combat a harmful legacy of one-size-fits-all solutions.Explore our recommended policies for focus populations
Primary care providers end up providing the majority of mental health care — more patients seek mental health care in primary care than in any other health system setting.Download One Pager