One of our top priorities in behavioral health over the coming years will be to better integrate physical health and mental health services in Arizona.  Why is this a priority you ask?  It’s because folks with the most serious mental illnesses die at least 25 years earlier than the average Arizonan (this is consistent across the country).  Physical and mental illnesses are often linked- and nearly ¼ of Americans (over 18) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.  When left untreated, folks can experience lost productivity, unsuccessful relationships, significant distress and dysfunction; it can also affect how well they care for their kids.

There’s broad consensus that integrating mental health services into primary care settings offers a promising and efficient way to ensure that people have access to needed mental health services. Additionally, mental health care delivered in an integrated setting can help to minimize stigma and discrimination, while increasing opportunities to improve overall health outcomes. Likewise, integrating physical healthcare services into behavioral health clinics has increased access to physical health care screening and treatment for individuals who are more likely to see their behavioral health provider than a primary care physician.

Successful integration requires the support of a strengthened primary care delivery system as well as a long-term commitment from our Department.  A timely new report from the Millbank Foundation called Evolving Behavioral Health Models in Primary Care assesses integration models in primary care settings.  The report reviews 8 model examples, including Improving Collaboration between Separate Providers; Medical-Provided Behavioral Health Care; Co-location; Disease ManagementReverse Co-location; Unified Primary Care and Behavioral Health; Primary Care Behavioral Health; and a Collaborative System of Care.

Dr. Laura Nelson will be facilitating a panel presentation on integrated behavioral health services at the 11th Annual Behavioral Health Summer Institute in Sedona this week.