Integrated Care: Our Experience and Perspective

integrated-care-making-it-workFor behavioral health patients, both high- and low-need, the complexity of accessing physical and behavioral health services separately can be prohibitive. There are also many behavioral health conditions that can and should be addressed within primary care settings, but patients often encounter primary care providers who lack experience in treating behavioral health conditions or engaging behavioral health members in their own care.

Though integration is now being advanced by the State of Illinois as an essential component of an efficient and effective health care system, Aunt Martha’s has worked to integrate primary care and behavioral health services for more than 15 years.

Since 2007, Aunt Martha’s has invested more than $28.6 million to advance the practice of integrated primary care and mental health services in our health centers.

Moreover, by integrating care, we have been successful in moving a high number of behavioral health patients from high cost psychiatric care to more efficient care management with their PCP. In fact, our model allows for about 20,000 behavioral health clients to be managed directly by their PCP.

As a result, Aunt Martha’s has expanded our model of integrated care by bringing behavioral health services into the primary care clinic setting by offering routine mental health screening and access to a treatment model that:

  1. Promotes early detection and improved management of treatment;
  2. Reduces the stigma of treating mental health disorders and offer convenience to patients;
  3. Promotes adherence and strengthen monitoring of the treatment plan; and,
  4. Builds on the existing, ongoing PCP and patient relationship.

Not only does this model result in improved outcomes, it also is the most cost-efficient, as all providers are working at the top of their licensure. Additionally, it expands access to behavioral health services by providing more of the services through PCPs, who are in greater supply than more specialized care offered by a psychiatrist.