The Opportunity with Primary Care Integration

When it comes to behavioral health and primary care integration, there are a few things we know:

  1. For people who have both physical and mental health conditions, both have to be addressed in order to impact their total health and health care costs.
  2. Many individuals with mental health conditions cared for by mental health professionals have concurrent physical illnesses that often are not well managed.
  3. For those with physical illness struggling with mental health conditions, the mental health conditions themselves make the illness worse and/or harder to treat and recover.
  4. Much of the effectiveness in treatment of physical conditions requires individuals to engage in their own healthcare, be adherent and even change their behavior and lifestyle choices. Psychosocial interventions don’t exist in the primary care practices; they are part of the programs and services available through behavioral health providers and provider organizations.
  5. Primary care physicians prescribe medications as their most frequent treatment intervention. They are often not familiar with nor do they know about alternative, and often more effective, treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT ). Those who are familiar with the efficacy of these non-pharmacological interventions are not able to provide them.
  6. Consumers are more familiar with accessing and navigating the physical medicine system compared to accessing behavioral health services. Still, a care coordinator or care manager that is monitoring and prompting the necessary care across physical and mental health needs would be necessary for ensuring positive outcomes.

From these statements it becomes apparent, the goal of integrating primary care and behavioral health is more than breaking down a long-standing gap between two core disciplines of medicine. It is really about addressing the mind/body health needs of an individual, which when united, improve health outcomes.

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