Integrating Behavioral Health into the Healthcare Home

One of the many provisions included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform law) was the creation of pilot programs to integrate all health care services into a Health Home. The development of the ‘medical home‘ concept will be most important among those with complicated health concerns and in vulnerable populations. Those with significant health issues in addition to behavioral health disorders will be in special focus.

This attempt to integrate care will likely have major impacts on how behavioral health care services are provided to the seriously mentally ill and chemically dependent populations. The National Council has been actively involved in this movement and has received funds to found the Center for Integrated Health Solutions.

The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare has won a competitive cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish the Center for Integrated Health Solutions. The Center will address the comprehensive health needs of clients with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders by improving the coordination of healthcare services in publicly funded community settings. The Center is funded jointly by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA).

In that role, on January 19, 2011, the National Council participated in an extremely informative webinar on current integration projects initiated by community behavioral health organizations. Each of the organizations that participated came to their ‘Health Home’ program in a different way and developed programs using different models. The presentation made clear that there are likely to be as many ways to accomplish the purpose of integrating health care for the most vulnerable populations as there are organizations that will provide that care. Even so, there are significant issues to be considered, challenges to be met, and goals to be accomplished for the establishment of a successful program.

A recording of this webinar is to be posted at http://coce.samhsa.gov/ at an indefinite date. Information about Co-Occurring Disorders Integration & Innovation can be obtained at contact@codimail.org

The hope that these programs can provide more effective health care at a lower cost is high. I am sure we will all be watching carefully to see how these and other initiatives progress.

I invite those  of you who have interest and experience with integrated care to share your perspectives. Your input will be valuable to your colleagues.

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