Affordable Care Act · behavioral health integration

Behavioral Health Homes

In the midst of talk of healthcare reform, it is apparent that the face of healthcare is undergoing numerous changes from the traditional delivery system. Accountable Care Organizations and other collaborative efforts are proving to be viable solutions for addressing the gaps within healthcare, providing a glimpse of its future structure. Efforts are underway across the nation (and internationally) to integrate behavioral health and primary services within the ACOs as well as between community behavioral health and primary care providers.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has created a health home option in Medicaid for treatment of chronic conditions. Thus, the concept of the health home was created, with incentives in place for a more holistic approach to healthcare in an attempt to improve quality of care, contain or reduce costs, and improve outcomes. With behavioral health conditions meeting the established criteria for chronic conditions, behavioral health homes are the ideal solution for meeting the needs of people with serious behavioral health disorders who have not traditionally accessed healthcare on an ongoing basis. While the majority of information circulating regarding healthcare integration is related to integrating behavioral health into a primary care setting, it’s a mistake to assume that primary care will absorb all behavioral health services. Specialty behavioral healthcare plays a distinct and important role within healthcare. Individuals with serious mental illnesses historically receive the majority of their services in community behavioral health settings. Many prefer to receive their primary care services within this setting as well for a variety of reasons. Primary care, in its typical current structure, would require significant modifications to take on the added line of business. Many organizations have successfully managed this, with Cherokee Health Systems leading the way for decades. However, primary care clinics that are not prepared nor inclined to follow this model may defer to the Behavioral Health Home.

What is a Behavioral Health Home?

First, let’s talk about what it is not. It is not a group home or nursing home. It is not a physical structure meant to house those in need of behavioral health services. The behavioral health home is a behavioral health organization that serves as a health home for people with mental health and substance use disorders.

Behavioral Health Homes for People with Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions prepared by Dr. Benjamin Druss and Dr. Laurie Alexander for the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions provides a thorough overview and guidance for establishing the behavioral health home. This document provides practical information for providers in their efforts to provide a more comprehensive delivery system to address the triple aim of healthcare. Behavioral Health Homes for People with Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions is an excellent resource and a must-read for providers in their efforts toward transitioning their organizations into a behavioral health home.


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