behavioral health integration · collaborative care · healthcare integration · Integrated Care · mental health · primary care behavioral health integration

Integrated Care Thought Leader Series: Benjamin Miller, PsyD

“If we really think about how to change healthcare to make it more accommodating for integration, we must have comprehensive payment reform that pays for the whole, and not the part. We must recognize that administrative structures in health policy entities often perpetuate fragmentation inadvertently. And we must have a way to collect data that can inform not only the clinical case for why integration is good, but the business case for why integration is inevitable.”

Dr. Benjamin Miller
Dr. Benjamin Miller

Healthcare policy plays a crucial role in integrated care. Our current healthcare system contains barriers that prevent successful implementation of behavioral health and primary care integration. We will not be able to effectively adopt whole-health approaches to healthcare until critical changes are made in existing health policy. Thankfully, we can be grateful for those who are out there, tirelessly advocating for changes daily.

Dr. Benjamin Miller has graciously agreed to offer his insights on this important topic for the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. He has made significant contributions to the healthcare industry and health policy, and continues to collaborate with a number of organizations focused on driving the necessary change for creating a more effective healthcare system. Dr. Miller has been the source of considerable inspiration to many (including me). It seems very appropriate, somehow, that I first met him through Twitter. His many tweets on healthcare, policy, and integration, with excellent links to current resources, provide me and many others with an education like no other. I have learned the value of Live Tweeting and Tweet Chats through his example (see Figure 1 below). Thank you, @miller7!

Dr. Miller is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine where he is the Director of the Office of Integrated Healthcare Research and Policy. Dr. Miller is a principal investigator on several federal grants, foundation grants, and state contracts related to comprehensive primary care and mental health, behavioral health, and substance use integration. He leads the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Academy for Integrating Behavioral and Primary Care project as well as the highly touted Sustaining Healthcare Across Integrated Primary Care Efforts (SHAPE) project in Colorado and Oregon.

He received his doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. He completed his predoctoral internship at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where he trained in primary care psychology. In addition, Miller worked as a postdoctoral fellow in primary care psychology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

He is the co-creator of the National Research Network’s Collaborative Care Research Network, and has written and published on enhancing the evidentiary support for integrated care models, increasing the training and education of mental health providers in primary care, and the need to address specific healthcare policy and payment barriers for successful integration. He is the section editor for Health and Policy for Families, Systems and Health and reviews for several academic journals. Dr. Miller is a technical expert panelist on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Innovations Exchange and on the International Advisory Board of the British Journal of General Practice. Miller is the past President of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, a national not-for-profit organization pushing for patient-centered integrated healthcare.

Having long been a firm believer in the need to provide healthcare in a unified manner, Dr. Miller has determined that three barriers prevent integrated care from becoming more widespread: Financing, policy, and data.

Finance

Dr. Miller: If you ask people why integration is or is not making a larger stand in healthcare, it usually comes out that they aren’t able to sustain their clinical innovation. So practices try to figure out ways that they can sustain themselves through all kinds of workarounds. Here in Colorado about three years ago we did a survey of integrated practices and found that 77% of those we surveyed were solely funding their integrated efforts through grants. I don’t think that’s uncommon. Actually, I think it’s very common across the country. A lot of practices that are doing this got funding from foundations, federal government, etc., to make it work. They’re only able to keep their doors open for the program while they’ve got those dollars. I wanted to figure out, why is that such a big deal? Why can’t we just pay for health?  We proposed a project to test out a global payer model for primary care that includes the cost of mental health, just to see if we were to pay primary care a lump-sum of money that includes the cost of that primary care provider, could they sustain themselves? That’s where the Sustaining Healthcare Across Integrated  Primary Care Efforts or SHAPE came from. We wanted to see if paying for primary care differently with mental health, behavioral health, substance abuse providers, working in that integrated context could be sustained. We’re about a year into that and the answer is going to be unanimously, yes.

Large Scale Policy Issues and History

Dr. Miller: If you look at how healthcare is set up, it’s set up to continue to perpetuate fragmentation. It’s set up so that administratively, it’s easier to manage pieces rather than a whole. Our states, communities, and government have done something, in an attempt to manage multiple systems, which has really hurt our attempts to integrate. I’ll give you a very high-level example of that: If you just look at most states, they usually have a different department or division for mental health. We decided to take all the dollars that were going into institutions for folks that had mental health issues and put it back into the community in established community mental health centers. The dollars didn’t really follow the patients in that experiment. Community mental health centers actually didn’t get a whole lot of money to do the job that they were intended to do. And so you have entire systems at state levels that manage mental health. When you want to try and integrate, whether it be in primary care or in the community mental health center with primary care, there are multiple administrative structures that you have to figure out how to align. And often, from a policy perspective, it doesn’t make sense fiscally as to how to align these and what to do with the administrative entities. There are a lot of policy issues. Mainly, how we’ve set up our systems to deliver care at the policy level.

Data, Research, and Infrastructure

Dr. Miller: The other reason I think integration hasn’t been taken to scale nationally as much as we would like, is that practices are relatively immature in their ability to collect data, especially as it relates to collecting that informs the outcome around the whole person and not just a physical health outcome or mental health outcome. If you go into a primary care practice and want to determine how effective a behavioral health provider is, often the electronic medical record and how they are tracking the data are in forms that don’t allow you to extract those data. They’re in free-text notes, or they’re in something that just makes it difficult to get at the data to show what they did and how effective it was. In the same vein, if you look at community mental health centers, it’s even worse. With vast amounts of EHRs, if they even have an EHR, are built around this old-fashioned, almost antiquated, “I need to tell the whole story for the patient” model. That’s good on the clinical level. However, if you’re looking at making a case for something, you need to be able to extract data from those electronic medical records and then tell a story with your data. Many of the community mental health centers simply are not there. They have an opportunity here to advance themselves by collecting better data at the practice level.

Though many in the healthcare industry see policy as something beyond their responsibility and concern, the reality is that it has an impact on each of us. Unless we collectively express our concerns, voice our professional opinions, demand the necessary changes, legislators will continue to make uninformed decisions that have significant impact on healthcare delivery.

While there remains a long way to go before the needed changes outlined by Dr. Miller are in place, the industry as a whole is making significant strides in the right direction. Policies are slowly beginning to change.

Perhaps the perfect storm is approaching for healthcare.

Ben Miller live tweeting at the 2010 CFHA Conference
Figure 1: Ben Miller live tweeting at the 2010 CFHA Conference in Louisville, Ky.
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behavioral health integration · Integrated Care · mental health

John F. Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Act of 1963: 50th Anniversary

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the date that President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 Community Mental Health Act into law. It was to be the last before his death on 11/22/63. The Act represents a monumental turning point in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. President Kennedy’s call to action in 1963 was based on a belief that all Americans – including those with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities, and addictions – have a right to lead dignified lives and to share in the benefits of our society. Patrick Kennedy, nephew of President Kennedy and former U.S. Representative of Rhode Island, is steadfast in his efforts to continue this important work via the Kennedy Forum.

Act of October 31, 1963 “Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963”, Public Law 88-164, 77 STAT 282, “to provide assistance in combating mental retardation through grants for construction of research centers and grants for facilities for the mentally retarded and assistance in improving mental health through grants for construction of community mental health centers, and for other purposes.”, 10/31/1963 (Figure 1 below)

History of Psychiatric Treatment

Figure 1: Mental Retardation and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963

Early attempts to treat mental illness are thought to date back to 5000 B.C. or earlier, based on the discovery of trephine skulls. A series of barbaric practices followed for millennia. It is suspected that the first asylums were established around the sixteenth century. These early facilities offered no real treatment despite their primitive attempts at cures, consisting of the use of leeches, purges, barbaric contraptions, and the use of chains and other restraints. Conditions gradually began to improve by the mid 1800s thanks to efforts led by humanitarians such as Dorothea Dix. Treatment reform in the asylums offered a more humane approach to the care of people with mental illness.

New treatment options followed in the early twentieth century, including psychoanalysis, introduced by Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud, and electroconvulsive therapy, introduced by Italian neuropsychiatrists, Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini. Psychopharmacology followed, arguably providing the single most significant change in treatment to date. A former colleague, psychiatrist, Dr. John Wolaver, remarked that when Thorazine was introduced in the psychiatric hospitals, the facilities were suddenly calm and quiet for the first time. It seemed to be a miracle cure. Psychopharmacology provided the next necessary step that led to deinstitutionalization.

The introduction of the Mental Retardation and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963, Public Law 88-164, a bold new effort,  forever changed the face of mental health treatment. Prior to this, it was not uncommon for individuals with behavioral health conditions to be hospitalized for many years; hundreds of thousands lived their lives in institutions and were buried on the grounds. Unfortunately, this deinstitutionalization effort fell short of its goal. The USA Today report, Kennedy’s Vision for Mental Health Never Realized, takes a candid look at this.

Figure 2 below illustrates the decrease in inpatient treatment between 1950 and 1995. As the psychiatric hospitals decreased in size, the homeless population grew. The jails and prisons began to fill with the individuals with behavioral health conditions. According to the 10/24/13 article, Why Are The Three Largest Mental Health Care Providers Jails? published by NewsOne:  The three largest mental health providers in the nation are the following jails: Cook County in Illinois, Los Angeles County and Rikers Island in New York. 

Figure 2: Deinstitutionalization

Integrated Care

Many thought-leaders believe that we have embarked upon another pivotal point in mental health (or more broadly, behavioral health) treatment. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General published in 1999 called for the integration of behavioral health and primary care. And the 2006 NASMHPD report, Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness has prompted the movement toward a whole health approach to treatment that integrates behavioral health and primary healthcare. This promising trend offers hope for improved access for individuals who live with mental health and/or substance use disorders, improved health outcomes, and controlling healthcare spending.

Let us work together to address health conditions wherever the individual presents for treatment. Healthcare must be redefined to include behavioral health. By removing the healthcare silos, providers will begin to recognize and treat the comorbid conditions in their patients. Mind-body integration improves patient outcomes and reduces costs.

Integrated care is necessary for improving the lives of of those who might have spent his or her life chained in a dungeon centuries ago. It is a key element in our efforts to achieve the Triple Aim.

Affordable Care Act · behavioral health integration · healthcare integration · mental health

The Role of Integrated Care in Mental Health: Mental Health Blog Day 2013

Blog for MH 2013

I’m happy to be participating in blogging for mental health today. I’m joining in on this year’s blog party because mental health awareness is so important. Each mental health blogger has a unique perspective, addressing important topics such as awareness, recovery, wellness, public policy, services, co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, etc., providing a personal, professional, or business perspective – or any combination of the three. These interesting and informative mental health blogs will provide an abundance of good reading for blog connoisseurs today!

Integrated care, a whole-health approach to healthcare, plays a very important role in mental health. This perspective has been gaining more and more attention over the past decade or so. It is not uncommon for people who receive mental health treatment to have little or no coordination of services with their primary care provider. Conversely, many people seeking primary care services have unmet mental health and/or substance use disorder treatment needs. This lack of coordination frequently results in sub-par outcomes, yet is often much more expensive as a result of duplicate or counter-indicated procedures and treatment. Lack of coordination results in costly emergency department visits, providing episodic treatment rather than a much more effective chronic care regimen and focus on prevention.

In my last post, I suggested that Integrated Care Awareness Day be recognized during Mental Health Month. As we increase awareness of the need to focus on healthcare in a holistic way, we begin to change the perception of mental health, not only for healthcare providers and policy-makers, but also for the public at large. Through improving access to services, controlling healthcare costs, and through tracking and improving health outcomes, we as a society can transition toward a wellness approach in healthcare.

Access to Services

Stigma is a huge barrier to receiving mental health services. Integrated care allows people to access services through mental health providers or primary care providers. They have the choice to receive mental health services where they are most comfortable.

Controlling Healthcare Costs

Coordination of care and focus on prevention help to control overall healthcare spending. The Affordable Care Act has provided the opportunity for changing the way that healthcare is delivered. Medicaid Health Homes are an example of this.

Improving Health Outcomes

Making use of health information technology enables providers to track outcomes, develop disease registries, and to share information for enhancing the coordination of care. As a result, people have improved health outcomes. They are healthier.

I hope you will stop by again soon. The next several posts to come will be a Thought Leader Series, a conversation with the visionary leaders who are instrumental in developing integrated care through research, policy, practice, and their steadfast passion for improving the lives of so many.

Happy Mental Health Blog Day 2013!

Affordable Care Act · behavioral health integration · mental health

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month: Let’s Include Integrated Care Awareness Day

On 4/30/2013, President Obama became the first president to sign a proclamation declaring May as National Mental Health Awareness Month. “As a nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling,” he said. “Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness—it is a sign of strength.” (Click here for a full copy of the Presidential Proclamation – National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2013.) This endorsement and recognition are important steps toward acceptance of mental health. However, mental health and physical health are inseparable. And as more healthcare providers provide integrated services, issues of shame and stigma are reduced, thus creating an environment in which asking for help becomes less difficult. The Affordable Care Act has provided numerous opportunities for the integration of behavioral health and primary healthcare.

Mental Health Awareness Month began in 1949 through the vision of Mental Health America to raise awareness about mental illness and the need for services. This year’s theme is Pathways to Wellness:

Key Messages

  1. Wellness – it’s essential to living a full and productive life. It’s about keeping healthy as well as getting healthy.
  2. Wellness involves a set of skills and strategies that prevent the onset or shorten the duration of illness and promote recovery and well-being. Wellness is more than just the absence of disease.
  3. Wellness is more than an absence of disease. It involves complete general, mental and social well-being. And mental health is an essential component of overall health and well-being. The fact is our overall well-being is tied to the balance that exists between our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health.
  4. Whatever our situation, we are all at risk of stress given the demands of daily life and the challenges it brings-at home, at work and in life. Steps that build and maintain well-being and help us all achieve wellness involve a balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, a sense of self-worth, development of coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and connections to family, friends and community.
  5. These steps should be complemented by taking stock of one’s well-being through regular mental health checkups and screenings. Just as we check our blood pressure and get cancer screenings, it’s a good idea to take periodic reading of our emotional well-being.
  6. Fully embracing the concept of wellness not only improves health in the mind, body and spirit, but also maximizes one’s potential to lead a full and productive life. Using strategies that promote resiliency and strengthen mental health and prevent mental health and substance use conditions lead to improved general health and a healthier society: greater academic achievement by our children, a more productive economy, and families that stay together.

As we focus on the importance of good mental health, it’s also an opportune time for increasing awareness of the importance of focusing on whole health rather than segregating mental health and substance use disorder issues. Contrary to popular belief, mental health services are largely provided outside of the mental health system. According to the Milbank Memorial Fund report, Evolving Models of Behavioral Health Integration in Primary Care, as many as 70 percent of primary care visits stem from psychosocial issues. While patients typically present with a physical health complaint, data suggest that underlying mental health or substance abuse issues are often triggering these visits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States Supplements 9/2/11 – 60(03);1-32:

Mental illness exacerbates morbidity from the multiple chronic diseases with which it is associated, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer (12–16). This increased morbidity is a result of lower use of medical care and treatment adherence for concurrent chronic diseases and higher risk for adverse health outcomes (17–20). Rates for injuries, both intentional (e.g., homicide and suicide) and unintentional (e.g., motor vehicle), are 2–6 times higher among persons with a mental illness than in the overall population (21,22). Mental illness also is associated with use of tobacco products and alcohol abuse (23).

May has 31 days, so perhaps we can designate one of the days in May as Integrated Care Awareness Day. A day set aside to bring awareness of the benefits of looking at one’s health as a whole rather than segregating mental health from physical health. With this year’s theme, Pathways to Wellness, it is an ideal time to increase awareness.

“The body must be treated as a whole and not just a series of parts.”
– Hippocrates (460 BC – 380 BC)

behavioral health integration · behavioral health primary care integration · collaborative care · healthcare integration · mental health · primary care behavioral health integration

Integrating Primary Care into the Behavioral Health Clinic

Innovative, forward-thinking behavioral health leaders are quickly moving forward to bring primary care services into their clinics. They are committed to improving the health outcomes of the individuals who receive their services. This blog post focuses on practical how-tos for optimizing service delivery.

PREPARING FOR INTEGRATED SERVICE DELIVERY

When co-locating primary care in a community behavioral health center, take care in planning the physical location of the primary care staff offices and exam rooms. Most behavioral health centers find space to be a premium. Bringing primary care services into the behavioral health clinic begins a flurry of activity of planning. An empty office or an office that is the obvious choice for doubling up employees is the typical starting point in planning. The easy solution is not the ideal solution. In order to prevent problems once the services are established, it is worth the effort to consider the following points:

Start with a Customer Service Perspective

Initial planning must be based on providing the best service for individuals who will be accessing services. This includes consideration of the ideal customer experience will be. Through starting with the end-goal in sight, you can effectively work backward to create the ideal. Providing a pleasant environment with a customer-centric flow that effectively integrates service delivery results in satisfied customers and providers.

Strategic Planning 

Integration of services will not occur unless primary care and behavioral health staff are located so that they can interact regularly. Passing each other in the hall promotes a sense of teamwork and allows for brief hallway consults. Physical distance prevents interaction and reduces the likelihood of true integration. When primary care services are segregated into a separate hallway, wing, or even a different floor, integration of services is hindered to the point of being essentially impossible. This model promotes a siloed model that discourages interaction between providers. A little disruption on the front end will prevent problems in the long run. Take the time to carefully plan the workflow. By relocating a few offices, chances for successful integration of services is maximized. Perhaps you may want to be really daring and have behavioral health and primary care professionals’ desks located in a central office near the exam rooms. Togetherness breeds camaraderie.

Encourage Warm Handoffs

This vote of confidence from one professional to another greatly increases the likelihood of follow through by the client. When the behavioral health and primary care professionals are in close proximity, even the busiest providers are able to take a moment to make this brief but invaluable introduction.

The Value of Flexibility 

Flexibility can be a challenge for behavioral health clinics. As a result, many rely on a rigid method of scheduling that is based on convenience of the clinic rather than the customer. This method has historically been a challenge for clinics and the people who seek services there. No show rates soar while unyielding (or is it naive?) administrators continue to expect people with cognitive impairment to somehow be trained to adhere to rigid methods of receiving services. This is costly for the clinic and frustrating for the client. It is NOT customer-centric.

It behooves community behavioral health clinics to follow the lead of their primary care cousins and opt for more flexible scheduling to meet the demands of the individuals served. This is even more important in an integrated setting that requires greater coordination for meeting the whole health needs of individuals. Open access and same-day scheduling are options.

Engage the Primary Care Staff in Planning the Workflow

Engaging primary care staff in planning workflow not only allows buy-in from everyone, it prevents having to make modifications later on. Workflow in primary care is very different than in the behavioral health setting. Negotiating the flow for integration ensures smooth service delivery and maximizes staff productivity.

Shared Reception is Ideal

One front desk for check in promotes the sense of seamless service delivery. It greatly simplifies the process for clients as well as staff. Having separate locations for checking in is an extra step in the workflow and is not customer-centric.

Plan for Frequent, Regular Case Consultation 

Weekly treatment team meetings that include all behavioral health and primary care providers offers a forum for integrated case discussion to supplement (rather than take the place of) ongoing, daily consultation. This allows providers to discuss difficult cases, building on the expertise of all. It also further promotes the sense of teamwork that is important for integration.

Check back for more practical how-tos for integrated service delivery.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I encourage readers to send in their ideas of other logistical considerations for successful integration to behavioralhealthintegration@gmail.com to be included in a future post of Behavioral Health Integration. 

behavioral health integration · behavioral health primary care integration · collaborative care · healthcare integration · mental health · primary care behavioral health integration

Making the Behavioral Health – Primary Care Marriage Work

Every relationship follows a similar pattern. The early phase begins with the selection of a partner. The same holds true for the integrated behavioral health and primary care partnership. It may begin with running into each other at a meeting. Or perhaps while reading the latest report on the emerging trend of healthcare integration, Accountable Care Organizations, health homes, etc…

The VISION begins to form                         

The behavioral health and primary care clinics enter into the dating relationship when the leaders of each, who have mutual admiration for each other, begin to recognize the potential of doing business together. One leader calls the other, suggesting they get together for lunch. It’s only lunch, he rationalizes to himself, it doesn’t mean anything…there’s no harm just in talking…. One thing leads to another during the wooing and courting phase; soon the idea transitions and the outline of a plan begins to emerge. The two leaders have entered the early stages of the partnership. The Vision is being created, becoming a driving force for each. The two organizations soon find themselves having serious discussions about forming a partnership. How did THIS happen?? The proposal is followed with a flurry of planning. There are so many details! Attorneys are kept busy creating a business plan and reviewing financial and regulatory documents, planning for the wedding of two organizations. Decisions must be made of how the assets are to be shared. Finances are sorted, MOUs are signed, and the partnership is official. The marriage of behavioral health and primary care creates a unique entity that is far greater together than either had, or could have been, alone. The early stage of the partnership is filled with excitement as the Vision takes shape and becomes reality. The shared vision is driven by the passion to become what neither can achieve alone. The specialty behavioral health provider and the primary care provider have integrated, raising the bar of healthcare for people with behavioral health disorders.

This marriage of healthcare providers is based on a Vision shared by two of eliminating the health disparities of people who suffer from serious mental illness and substance use disorders.

COMMUNICATION

Early Phase: THE HONEYMOON

In the early days of the partnership, the Honeymoon phase, there is a distinct tendency toward assuming that both partners are speaking the same language and are working toward the same goals. The excitement of the new endeavor and the synergy created initially helps to move things along at a rapid pace. When the behavioral health partner talks about workflow and scheduling appointments, there is little thought given to the fact that these two concepts have VERY different meanings for the primary care provider. It is important to have a thorough review of operations from both perspectives and to find a viable middle-ground that both partners find acceptable. Making open, frequent communication a priority from the onset will prevent problems later on.  This should include a thorough overview of each organization’s regulatory, financial, and operational processes as well as overall mission. Don’t assume that the two partners really understand how each other’s organization functions.

Problems within the Partnership
(AKA THE HONEYMOON IS OVER!)

If the partners neglect to develop an open culture of communication on the front end, it is likely that miscommunication will develop. The Honeymoon phase is in jeopardy. The entrepreneurial partner fails to understand the ongoing delays from the partner with the extensive bureaucratic approval process that prevents a quick turnaround of virtually everything. As misunderstandings develop into disappointments and resentments, the previous harmony is disrupted. The Honeymoon is over. Internal conflicts must be addressed immediately with candor. This is a good time to have an open conversation about all the aforementioned points and develop a plan for ongoing, frequent communication. Concerns about the great divide over productivity targets, outcome measures, and caseloads must be openly discussed, among other important points of contention. By devoting the necessary focus on the importance of Communication, the partnership will successfully transition to the third key component for a successful behavioral health – primary care marriage, Compromise. The shared mission to reduce health disparities for the individuals served who suffer from comorbid behavioral health and medical conditions will persevere. However, failure to make this transition may very well land this promising partnership into divorce court.

COMPROMISE

I shall argue that strong men, conversely, know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater principle. –Andrew Carnegie

It isn’t easy to bring a behavioral health organization and a primary care organization together for the creation of an integrated partnership, despite the reason–altruistic or otherwise. When partners fail to provide adequate attention to open and effective communication, the excitement of early marriage can wane; the relationship may become troubled, requiring mediation. When misunderstandings occur and tempers flare, it’s time for an intervention to get the partnership back on track.

Marital Counseling

As with any relationship, compromise is a necessary element in the behavioral health – primary care partnership. After the honeymoon phase, the partnership enters a crucial period in which its future is determined by the ability of the partners to negotiate the (sometimes rocky) path ahead. Differences between the two entities become more apparent as pressure mounts via the divergent audits, budgets, various regulatory requirements, etc. Furthermore, what are the partners to do when they encounter conflicting requirements? Marital counseling may be in order at this point. In other words, it’s time for the partners to take a time-out and take an honest and open appraisal. Developing shared solutions are important for strengthening the bond. The partners must approach all dilemmas together as a team. Each has a vested interest; negotiating solutions will strengthen that bond. Wise leaders recognize that trust is not automatically bestowed. Members of the teams need time and patience for trust to develop. By bringing together members from each team who share similar roles and encouraging ongoing, regular interaction, trust begins to develop within the partnership. Remember that trust cannot be rushed but will grow into a strong foundation  throughout the partnering organizations if nurtured. Empowering the team provides the opportunity for everyone to develop a sense of ownership for successful outcomes. Empowered employs who feel that they play an important role in the organization and who feel valued by management have a greater sense of commitment to the organization. Allow team members the ability to make decisions rather than having every movement scripted. When the receptionist is empowered to work-in an emergency patient without having to gain approval for every occurrence, amazing things begin to happen:  The receptionist feels like a valued member of the team, the patient benefits from the responsiveness, and the other members of the team benefit from the smooth workflow. In marriage, each partner has a responsibility for doing his/her part to ensure equilibrium. The same is true between andwithin the partnership.

Determine Expectations

Mentioning expectations at this point might seem unnecessary. After all, the behavioral health and primary care organization have formed the partnership for the distinct purpose of providing healthcare integration. It’s a very clear expectation and doesn’t require discussion. Or does it? Just as a couple contemplating marriage might wrongly assume that each has the same idea of what their marriage will be like (one partner daydreams about a trendy loft in the city while the other longs for a house with a massive lawn in the suburbs), the integrated healthcare partnership can fall into the same trap of flawed thinking. Don’t assume! The chances for happily ever after increase exponentially when time and effort are committed for open discussions about expectations for the partnership. Both partners must be willing to compromise on expectations when they are incongruent. And don’t forget:

People with serious mental illness are dying while we try to figure this out!

OUTCOMES

With individuals who suffer from serious mental illnesses dying 25 years prematurely on average, behavioral health and primary care have been mandated to address this health disparity. More effective protocols are in order and must be initiated immediately. This is a matter of life and death. The Behavioral Health and Primary Care Marriage is a viable solution.

Growing Old Together

Once the marriage has successfully navigated the first three essential components of a behavioral health – primary care marriage, VisionCommunication, and Compromise,  the final component builds and maintains the mature partnership for growing old together.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

The Behavioral Health – Primary Care Marriage, at its best, is an entity so much more than just two collaborating organizations. The synergistic effect of the partnering of two organizations has the ability to surpass what either can accomplish alone. The community behavioral health organization has expertise in treating complex behavioral health disorders but does not address the primary care needs of individuals. The primary care organization excels at treating a myriad of health conditions including mild behavioral health disorders but does not have the expertise to address serious mental illness or substance use disorders. The marriage of behavioral health and primary care serves as a means of connecting the head and the body; it may be thought of as the neck of healthcare. The neck allows the best of both worlds to work together in unison, becoming far greater than either can be alone.

Enhanced Outcomes through Blending of Resources

Measuring outcomes provides evidence of the value of the partnership. Through building on the expertise of each, the blended resources result in enhanced outcomes. For example, theUniversity of Washington’s IMPACT Evidence-based Depression Care has impressive results in improved outcomes with significant cost reduction through collaborative care. The marriage thrives with ongoing feedback, allowing for calibration to ensure that services are effective and financially sustainable. To provide a comprehensive overview, it is recommended that individual health outcome indicators, service outcome indicators, and outcomes data for decision making are included in the repertoire of data collected for analysis and sharing. Implement a system of collecting the indicators at the onset of the partnership. The indicators must be meaningful to both partners. The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors has a very useful report for guiding the process, Measurement of Health Status for People with Serious Mental Illness.

Accountability

Frequent, regular intervals of sharing results with the team establish a sense of accountability that builds the foundation for longevity. Both partners have responsibility to the partnership and to producing positive outcomes. By following the Four Key Components for a Successful Behavioral Health and Primary Care Marriage, the partnership will live happily ever after.