behavioral health integration

Behavioral Health Integration 2013 in Review

2013 has been a very good year for Behavioral Health Integration Blog! Our popular Integrated Care Thought Leader Series began this year, providing insights into the minds of some of the most prominent thought leaders in integrated care, including Dr. Alexander “Sandy” Blount, Dr. Benjamin Druss, Larry Fricks, and Dr. Benjamin Miller. Stay tuned in 2014! We have several excellent integrated care thought leaders lined up, to provide their expert perspectives on whole health and integrating behavioral health and primary care for enhancing health outcomes, reducing healthcare costs, and improving access to healthcare.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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behavioral health integration

Integrated Care Thought-Leader Series: Larry Fricks

“When you look at people holistically and start valuing their mind-body resiliency, I think there is a level of excitement, and better outcomes.”

Larry Fricks
Larry Fricks

September is Recovery Month. This year’s theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness. It is very fitting that Larry Fricks is our featured Integrated Care Thought Leader this month, as he is one of the nation’s greatest leaders in peer-led services, wellness, and recovery. An amazing individual who has devoted his life to helping others, Mr. Fricks was gracious enough to his insights into the importance of whole health wellness and resiliency and the vital role of engaging with people who have the lived-experience to provide support through the process. He offered insight into the role that a whole health approach plays in improving health outcomes and managing wellness. Drawing from his own experiences, Mr. Fricks identified many factors that contribute to a person’s recovery process. Acknowledging that factors such as race, socioeconomic status, and personal support system play a crucial role:
“I don’t think you can underestimate what social determinants do to break somebody down.”

Larry Fricks is Director of the Appalachian Consulting Group and Deputy Director of the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions. For 13 years he served as Georgia’s Director of the Office of Consumer Relations and Recovery in the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases. A founder of the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network and Georgia’s Peer Specialist Training and Certification, he has a journalism degree from the University of Georgia and has won numerous journalism awards. He is a recipient of the American Association for World Health Award and the Lifetime Achievement Voice Award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the development and adoption of multiple innovative, community recovery-oriented programs and services. Mr. Fricks’s recovery story and life’s work to support the recovery of others was published by HarperCollins in the New York Time’s best-selling book Strong at the Broken Places by Richard M. Cohen. (Click here for video of Mr. Fricks’s interview on the Today Show.) He is also the creator of the Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) training, a best practice model which strengthens the peer workforce’s role in healthcare delivery.

From Peer Support to Whole Health and Resiliency

I first met Mr. Fricks in 2000 in Rockford, Illinois. He was the keynote speaker at the Consumer Family Forum, addressing a group who receive behavioral health services, their families, and behavioral health professionals from across the state. His passion resonated among the 300+ attendees as he shared his personal recovery story, urging others to believe that recovery is possible. I vividly recall (and have frequently shared with others) a very moving story that he shared about an initiative that has grown to be The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths: A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity, honoring the hundreds of thousands of people who died and were buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of psychiatric hospitals…and were forgotten:

Larry Fricks: Their graves were decimated and desecrated and they have no markers and people didn’t care about maintaining their graves. They walked the Earth and they had a life. Mothers, husbands and wives, children. They had wonderful things happen, and they saw miracles, and they had heartbreak, and you’re just honoring that experience. I just really believe that the Memorial is drawing people that I never expected to draw…very inspiring.

Through the years, Mr. Fricks has traveled from state to state, providing inspiration to so many, sharing his vision, and leading the way to transforming the way behavioral health organizations provide services. He led the national initiative to include peer-led services as a core feature, and is now working with states to embed Peer Support Specialists and Family Peer Specialists in integrated healthcare efforts as well. He currently divides his time between his work with the Appalachian Consulting Group based in Georgia, and his work in Washington, DC, as Deputy Director with the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions which has included testifying at Congressional Hearings on Mental Health.

Larry Fricks: We now know that things like a social network and service to others are huge health and resiliency factors. People who are in service to others tend to be healthier and they tend to live longer. Also they tend to be more resilient toward relapse or illness. So my life striving to be in service to others to strengthen their health and maybe strengthen their skills in recovery has had the benefit of strengthening my own recovery.

While his earlier work has focused on the role of Peer Support in the recovery process, Mr. Fricks’s work has broadened the focus to include a whole health approach. With startling reports that people with serious behavioral health conditions are dying decades earlier on average than the general population, he led a team at the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions to create a training called Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) that is designed to address this disparity though self-management supported by peers. Mr. Fricks has great praise for the effort in Georgia to develop Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers that are reducing hospitalizations.

Larry Fricks: Let me tell you about what excites me. Georgia has three of these Peer Support, Wellness, and  Respite Centers and they’re going to open two more. I’m very excited about what’s going on in those centers. Basically, if you feel early warning signs of your illness, or your addiction, you can go to one of these peer respite centers where you have your own bedroom and you can stay up to seven nights, chill out, and you’re surrounded by peers trained holistically to support your wellness. I think it’s really cutting the need for more intense crisis services and hospitalizations. So I had a chance to actually pull a shift in one of them, I answered the warm line and experienced what it was like to provide healing support by simply listening, or maybe just ask a few quetions for deeper reflection like we are trained to do. These peer support wellness centers are returning us to whole health. Removing some of the stigma, giving us a sense of owning our recovery and being proactive, and really engaging peer support to be successful. Georgia is leading the nation. With three we had more than any state, and with five we’ll really be out in front.

What’s next on the horizon?

Larry Fricks: I’m really excited about epigenetics. On April 2 of this year, Time magazine had a cover story on curing cancer, and this whole science on epigenetics basically says DNA does not have the last say. There are mind-body resiliency factors and there’s more and more research on epigenetics. “Epi” means over and the epi is the cell structure over your genome, over the DNA. And what they’re saying here is: Things that you do, like what you eat and managing stress to stay well, it determine which genes switch on and switch off. And so being aware of this thing, if you look at the WHAM training, we include ten health and resiliency factors which we got from Dr. Greg Fricchione who used to run Mrs. Carter’s Mental Health Program [at the Carter Center], and now he’s director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. These prevention doctors are big on something called the Relaxation Response, and so we’re looking at the things you can do to switch on and switch off gene markers; and they can impact the next generation.

And in parting:

I’m aware that there are just people and things that happen in your life that, if you’re open to it, you work on staying connected and having faith, your life can experience great meaning and purpose.
D
r. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “We’re all bound in a mutual destiny and I’m not all I can be until you’re all you can be, and you’re not all you can be until I’m all I can be.” We should be about connection. We should be about cooperation, and there’s a spiritual power to that, and when you’re open to it, positive things just seem to happen. And you’re inspired by it.

Sometimes you want to shake your head and say, “Oh my gosh, why don’t I have more faith?”

 

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

Integrated Care Thought Leader Series: Benjamin Druss, MD, MHP

“That’s the next direction that [organizations] need to go, bringing substance abuse back into the discussion. We need to go past just the integration of primary care and mental health care to a more Whole Person Care.”

Benjamin Druss, MD, MHP
Benjamin Druss, MD, MHP

It has been my pleasure to talk with Dr. Benjamin Druss for this edition of the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. Having had the privilege to work with Dr. Druss on various integrated care projects over the past few years, I have come to respect not only his keen insight into what’s needed beyond the horizon for the care of people with behavioral health disorders, but the compassion and dedication he brings. His humility and brilliance are evident upon introduction; he’s a true visionary. Dr. Druss, my mentor and my friend, has provided inspiration to me in my work and outlook on the world of healthcare, integration, and beyond.

Dr. Druss, world-renown researcher in health policy, has made a significant contribution to healthcare and the integration of behavioral health and physical health. He has impacted the lives of many individuals as a result. As the first Rosalynn Carter Chair in Mental Health, Dr. Druss is working to build linkages between mental health, general medical health, and public health. He works closely with Carter Center Mental Health Program, where he is a member of the Mental Health Task Force and Journalism Task Force. He has been a member of two Institute of Medicine Committees, and has served as an expert consultant to government agencies including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. He serves as professor at Rollins School of Health Policy and Management at Emory University.

Dr. Druss’s research focuses on improving physical health and healthcare among persons with serious mental disorders. He has published more than 100 peer‐reviewed articles on this and related topics, including the first randomized trial of an intervention to improve medical care in this population in 2001. His research is funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, and he serves as a standing member of an NIMH study section. He has received a number of national awards for his work.

Dr. Druss, Dr. Silke von Esenwein, and their colleagues at Emory University are currently conducting an exciting NIMH research trial, The Health Outcomes Management and Evaluation (HOME) Study. As described on the website clinicaltrials.gov: There is an urgent need to develop practical, sustainable approaches to improving medical care for persons treated in community mental health settings, this study will test a novel approach for improving mental health consumers based on a partnership model between a Community Mental Health Center and a Community Health Center. When this study is completed, it will provide a model for a medical home for persons with severe mental illness that is clinically robust, and organizationally and financially sustainable.

Dr. Druss received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1985, earned his medical degree from New York University in 1989 and later his master’s in public health from Yale University in 1995.He is also board certified in psychiatry. He trained as a resident in general internal medicine at Rhode Island Hospital and in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Click here for more information about Dr. Benjamin Druss

Advancement in integrated care through the years

Dr. Druss was one of the first to address the physical health concerns among people with serious mental illness and substance use disorders, particularly among the public sector populations in urban regions. During our discussion on integrated care, he addressed areas of change over the past 18 years that has had the greatest impact on the advancement of healthcare for people with serious mental illness. He described the world of Health Information Technology as a frontier that, over the past 10 years, has resulted in changing policies and procedures in healthcare. These changes have had significant impact on the ability for healthcare organizations to share information, resulting in improved care for patients.

Dr. Druss advises that the next stage needed for healthcare is to begin “broadly looking at other social determinants of health.” The focus should be on an approach to healthcare that is person-centered. The concept of addressing population health and creating a system of care will be a more effective approach to improving health outcomes moving forward. He recommends that substance abuse must be brought back into the discussion, and to go past just the concept of integration of physical health and mental health, toward a more “whole person care” approach.

What do you foresee for the field as we move forward?

Dr. Druss:  Clearly there’s going to be major changes in how care is delivered. I think there’s a lot of opportunity moving forward with new public sector models, Medicaid, patients with medical homes, and also the promise of new technologies moving forward as well.

I’m very optimistic; I think things will certainly be very different five years from now. We’re in a period where things are evolving very quickly and we don’t know exactly what the world will look like, but I think we can say that things will look different—and that things will look better.

Research has to change as well. I’m mostly a researcher and lot of what we’ve been doing is slow-paced. The slow-paced process by which we develop a model, and then test it over a five year period. You apply for a grant and then you test it for five years, then it’s another two years before it’s published. So we’re going to have to be looking for more ways for understanding data and evaluating programs. I think the new technologies will help, their more wide-spread availability will help. Just as the health system needs to change—and is changing—health research is going to need to change as well.

The funding agencies still are gradually coming to that point. NIMH has a new program that they are looking to fund that looks at natural experiments out in the community. So I think that’s the sort of research that we’re going to need to see more of in the coming years—good, careful, thoughtful evaluations of some of the demonstration projects going on out in the community.

What barriers to integration to you currently see?

Dr. Druss:  I’d say that a lot of community mental health centers are still on this part of the learning curve in terms of learning about integration, such as how potential partner organizations work, [such as] Federally Qualified Health Centers. [CMHC’s] often lack information technology infrastructure that makes it easier to do the work. There are some places, some community clinics, and other organizations that are out in front on these issues, that are early adopters, and there’s some that are trying to figure it out and hopefully will learn from the experience of those organizations that are further ahead.

Thank you, Dr. Druss, for your dedication to improving the health and quality of life of so many who live with serious behavioral health conditions.

Be sure to check back soon for our next Thought Leader, Larry Fricks, pioneer in the Peer Support movement.

A sampling of Dr. Druss’s cutting-edge research and other publications are listed below:

The Health Recovery Peer (HARP) Program: A Peer-Led Intervention to Improve Medical Self-Management for Persons with Serious Mental Illness
Benjamin G. Druss, Liping Zhao, Silke A. von Esenwein, Larry Fricks, Sherry Jenkins-Tucker, E. Sterling, R. Diclemente, K. Lorig

Behavioral Health Homes for People with Mental Health & Substance Use Conditions: Core Clinical Features
Laurie Alexander, PhD, Alexander Behavioral Healthcare Consulting, and Benjamin Druss, MD, MPH, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University authored this document for the SAMHSA-HRSA Center For Integrated Health Solutions

A Randomized Trial of Medical Care Management for Community Mental Health Settings: The Primary Care Access, Referral, and Evalution (PCARE) Study
Benjamin G. Druss, M.D., M.P.H.. Silke A. von Esenwein, Ph.D. Michael T. Compton, M.D.,. M.P.H.. Kimberly J. Rask, M.D., Ph.D. Liping Zhao, M.S.P.H.. Ruth M. Parker, MD

Budget Impact and Sustainability of Medical Care Management for Persons With Serious Mental Illnesses
Benjamin G. Druss, M.D., M.P.H., Silke A. von Esenwein, Ph.D., Michael T. Compton, M.D., M.P.H., Liping Zhao, M.S.P.H., Douglas L. Leslie, Ph.D

Understanding excess mortality in persons with mental illness: 17-year follow up of a nationally representative US survey
Druss BG, Zhao L, Von Esenwein S, Morrato EH, Marcus SC.

Mental Disorders and Medical Comorbidity
Goodall S, Druss BG, and Walker ER

Understanding Disability in Mental and General Medical Conditions 2000
Druss BG, Marcus SC, Rosenheck RA, Olfson M, Tanielian T, Pincus, HA

Integrated Medical Care for Patients With Serious Psychiatric Illness 2001
Druss BG, Rohrbaugh RM, Levinson CM, Rosenheck RA

Mind and Body Reunited: Improving Care at the Behavioral and Primary Healthcare Interface publication 2007
Mauer BJ and Druss BG

Mental disorders and medical comorbidity publication 2011
Druss, BG and Walker ER

Research Projects:

Co-Principal Investigator, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Funding Period 9/1/96-1/31/98
“Chronic Illness, Disability, and Managed Care”

Principal Investigator, National Association for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD); Funding period July 1, 1996 – June 30, 1998
“Work and Health Care Costs associated with Depression Compared with Chronic General Medical Illnesses”

Principal Investigator, Donaghue Medical Research Foundation; Funding period July 1, 1996-Decmeber 31, 1999
“Costs of Depression for an Employed Population”

Principal Investigator, NARSAD; Funding Period July 1999-June 2001
“Treatment of Depression and Medical Illness Under Managed Care: Understanding the Differences”

Principal Investigator, NIMH K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Award; Funding Period January 1999-December 2004
“Impact of Depressive Disorders in Health and Work Settings”

Principal Investigator, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Funding Period October 1, 2004-September 30, 2006
“Evidence-Based Management of Depression in Public-Sector Primary Care”

Principal Investigator: R34MH78583; Funding Period September 1, 2006-August 1, 2010
“Adapting a Medical Self-Management Program for a Community Mental Health Center”

Principal Investigator: K24MH075867; Funding period July 2006-June 2011
“Mending the Safety Net: Improving Linkages between CHCs and CMHCs”

Principal Investigator, AHRQ R18; Funding Period September 2008-September 2012
“An Electronic Personal Health Record for Mental Health Consumers”

Principal Investigator R21HS017649; Funding Period August 1st 2008-April 2010
“Mental Comorbidity and Chronic Illness in the National Medicaid System”

Principal Investigator, NIMH R01; Funding period August 2004-April 2014
“Improving Primary Care for Patients with Mental Disorders”

Principal Investigator NIMH MH090584-01A1; Funding Period 06/15/2011- 03/31/16
“A peer-led, medical disease self-management program for mental health consumers”

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.

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

The Partnership: Choosing the Right Model for Your Integrated Healthcare Services

Determining the Model

How do partnering Community Behavioral Health Centers (CBHC) and  Community Health Centers (CHC) determine the ideal model for their foray into integration? There are many factors to consider such as:

  • What are the needs of the individuals served by the partnering organizations?
  • What are the needs of the community?
  • What resources do the organizations bring to the partnership?

Now that the partners have a solid foundation and clear vision for their collaboration, it is time for the careful planning that is necessary to make it a reality.  There are effective tools available to assist organizations in working through this very important process. (Please note that these suggestions and resources are not limited to community providers.) 

The MH/Primary Care Integration Options scale  is available on the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solution website. This is very helpful for leading the discussion among the members of the implementation team. The scale assists the partners not only in determining the current reality but also mutually deciding on the desired level of integration: Minimal Collaboration, Basic Collaboration from a Distance, Basic Collaboration On-Site, Close Collaboration/Partly Integrated, and Fully Integrated/Merged in each of these key functional areas:

  1. Access: How do individuals access services?
  2. Services: Are the services separate and distinct or are the primary care and behavioral health services seamless? Or perhaps somewhere in between.
  3. Funding: Do the partners share resources or are they separate?
  4. Governance: Are there separate boards of directors for each organization?
  5. Evidence-based Practices: Do the organizations administer the PHQ-9 or disease registries, for example, and share the results?
  6. Data: Do the partners share information? Do the providers have access to the partner’s EHR?

This assessment process is most effective when stakeholders from each organization are included. Ideally, representatives are included from clinical, management, and administrative departments, as well as a few individuals who use the services. It’s very helpful to have frontline staff and board members to take part as well.  Call center and reception staff offer a unique perspective that leadership frequently finds enlightening.

Other useful tools available include the National Council’s Success in the New Healthcare Ecosystem: Mental Health & Substance Use Provider Readiness Assessment prepared by Dale Jarvis.   This allows provider organization management teams to assess their organization’s readiness for engaging in the changing healthcare system.

Another tool to consider is the COMPASS-PH/BH  created by Zia Partners.  This self-assessment tool is used for primary care/behavioral health integration for implementation of a Comprehensive Continuous Integrated System of Care.

Making the Vision into a Reality

Once the ideal model of integration has been determined, the journey begins to make it a reality. Be sure to stop by for the next installment in the series.

What tools or methods have you found to be helpful when selecting a model for your healthcare integration endeavor?

I would love to hear from you! Please email your suggestions to me at behavioralhealthintegration@gmail.com for inclusion in a future post.

 

behavioral health integration · behavioral health primary care integration · primary care behavioral health integration

No Margin No Mission: Sustainability in Behavioral Health – Primary Care Integration

Of the many challenges in integrating behavioral health and primary care services, the one that garners the most apprehension and concern is sustainability. It is also the most frequent reason for hesitation in moving forward. Healthcare is not set up to address this. Primary care and behavioral health have different billing codes with no easily decipherable means of venturing outside the confines to include payment for integrated services. The mere thought of the process required to begin to tear down the barriers separating the two worlds strikes fear in the hearts of the most courageous administrators.

Healthcare administrators are presented with conflicting demands and are struggling to reconcile the next step. They can:

  1. Ignore the ever increasing focus on healthcare integration and hope it is just another passing fad; or
  2. Place even more burden on the ever-shrinking budgets and hope for the best.

Let’s take a closer look at the options:

Ignoring healthcare integration seems like the easiest solution. Administrators can align themselves with like-minded peers creating a support group who reinforces the notion that it will all just fade away if they merely wait it out. This group gets considerable pleasure in observing the early adopters from a distance, filled with certainty that they are all making huge mistakes. They pat themselves on the back encouragingly as they watch their naïve peers make the occasional fumble, while attributing any successes to sheer (unsustainable) luck.

Over-burdening the current budget seems to be irresponsible. Behavioral health administrators have been faced with budget cuts in unprecedented amounts over the past few years. While they have either become masters at doing more with less or have chosen to leave the field entirely, taking on a new business-line during the increasing uncertainty of their organizations’ financial states seems to be overly risky and counterintuitive.

Yet the pressure is on.

Nationally, more and more behavioral health conferences are featuring healthcare integration tracks. The same is becoming true of primary care conferences and conventions as well. With more and more research and reports being released that provide the necessary data to support the need for integration, it’s becoming more and more difficult to write it off as a passing fad. The recent report from the SAMHSA-sponsored, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Physical Health Conditions among Adults with Mental Illnesses provides further evidence supporting earlier reports demonstrating the need for integration.

The current model of providing behavioral healthcare may be on its way to becoming obsolete. Now is the time for behavioral healthcare administrators to begin the discussion of how to address the whole-health needs of the people they serve. Whether through collaborative partnership agreements, bi-directional integration, or full integration, this issue can no longer be ignored. There are many changes that can be implemented right away (focusing on billing codes and maximizing billing opportunities) while others will require advocating changes at the state and federal level. (Click here for helpful billing tools created by the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions.) Daunting though this may seem, the climate is right for these discussions with your state Medicaid and behavioral health offices. They are faced with the task of making the necessary changes to move into the new era of healthcare integration. Strategically, it’s far better to be a part of discussions on creating this new structure than to have it imposed on your organizations. The Georgia Association of Community Services Boards has partnered with the Carter Center to create a forum for change in Georgia via their Integrative Healthcare Learning Collaborative. Not only have they included the public behavioral health providers and their primary care partners, they also have representation from the Georgia Primary Care Association and area medical schools.  They recognize that in order to develop sustainable programs everyone must be at the table.

What are your strategies for sustaining healthcare integration?
I’d love to hear from you. Please enter your comments/suggestions/ideas below or email: behavioralhealthintegration@gmail.com.

Let’s not lose sight of the goal: we must work together to make a difference in improving health outcomes of the people we serve. We CAN ensure that the margin is there to continue the mission. Be a part of the solution!

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

COMMUNICATION: The Second Key Component of a Successful Behavioral Health – Primary Care Marriage

The next key component of a successful Behavioral Health – Primary Care Marriage focuses on 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.