Integrated Behavioral Health and Primary Care

Integration 101 – Home

Integration of Behavioral Health Care and Physical Health Care refers to the intentional, ongoing, and committed coordination and collaboration between all providers treating the individual. Providers recognize and appreciate the interdependence they have with each other to positively impact healthcare outcomes. Ideally, a designated team of behavioral and physical healthcare providers develop a common treatment plan that identifies and addresses both physical health and behavioral healthcare needs. Integrated care can occur when:

  • Behavioral health providers work alongside physical health providers in the same location; or
  • Behavioral health and physical health providers work in different settings but coordinate care through shared electronic medical records.

Why is integration of Behavioral Health Care & Physical Health Care needed?

We all need to take care of both our physical health needs and our behavioral health needs. The mind and the body cannot be separated; symptoms and illness in one impacts the health of the other. Both physical health and behavioral health benefit from prevention efforts, screening tests, routine check-ups, and treatment. Many people have both physical and behavioral health illnesses. It was estimated that 34 million American adults in 2001-2003 had both a behavioral health and physical health condition. Nationally, individuals with serious mental illness die more than 25 years earlier than the general population and in Arizona, that number is even higher. This increased mortality is largely due to treatable medical conditions that are caused by modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity, substance abuse, and reluctance to access medical care. This is a serious public health problem.

Is Integration Happening at a National Level?

There has been a national focus on improving quality and efficiency of healthcare services by properly addressing all physical and mental health needs. This focus has led to supporting integrated behavioral health and physical healthcare by promoting the following:

  • Health Information Technology
    Health Information Technology (HIT) through electronic health records allows greater care coordination between behavioral health and physical healthcare providers leading to improved health outcomes. Starting in summer 2011, providers can apply for Medicaid reimbursement incentives to implement and utilize electronic health records. Learn more about AHCCCS' role in HIT.
  • Establishing Equal Health Treatment through the Mental Health Parity Act
    The Mental Health Parity Act requires insurance companies to now offer the same amount and frequency of services with equal co-pay and deductibles for both mental and physical health services. To learn more view the following handouts:
  • Expanding the Health Care Workforce
    • In 2010, a new application cycle for National Health Service Corps was launched to address the health care workforce shortage. It allows physical health providers as well as behavioral health providers including psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists, and marriage and family therapists to apply to the NHSC loan repayment programPDF.
    • The Pediatric Specialty Loan Repayment Program will be established for individuals who are employed in a health professional shortage or underserved areas for at least two years. This program includes providing child and adolescent mental and behavioral health care, including substance abuse prevention and treatment services.
  • Improving the Quality and Availability of Health Care Services
    • Grant opportunities will be available to assist in improving training programs that pertain to social work, graduate psychology programs, professional training in child and adolescent mental health as well as service training for paraprofessionals in child and adolescent mental health.
    • National funds will be used to educate primary care providers about mental health services including substance abuse prevention and treatment services.
    • Community health centers provide whole body care through coordination of care with providers working as a team. National funds are being allocated to expand community health centers to increase access to care for low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, rural communities and other underserved populations. These funds will also be used to improve preventive and primary care services including behavioral health.

Learn about Arizona's planning for a Recovery Through Whole Health.

Note: The resource links on this page are provided for informational purposes only to provide some basic information about health care integration activities. Many health care systems or programs use different terminology to describe the same or similar activity, often based on the funding source or discipline that is sponsoring the integration activity. It is important to note that by including a link to a specific document or web site, we are neither endorsing nor favoring any particular method or approach over another that may not appear on this page.