Director's Message

Better health through holistic care with an integrated behavioral care model

Behavioral health care is essential for overall health and well-being. Behavioral health conditions, which encompass mental health and substance use disorders, affect millions of people across the lifespan and across social, economic and cultural backgrounds. Additionally, behavioral health conditions contribute to billions in health care costs. But there is evidence that use of team-based care including a behavioral health specialist, such as a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, can improve outcomes for patients with these conditions.

Behavioral health conditions such as depression are leading — but treatable — causes of disability. Prevalence of these conditions has worsened with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Behavioral health challenges affect and coexist with chronic medical illnesses, worsening health outcomes and impairing individuals' ability to manage their health.

Unfortunately, there remains substantial stigma against people with behavioral health conditions from providers, health systems, society and even federal policies that impede access to care. This is particularly true for people from socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds. These groups have a much harder time getting the right diagnoses, and even when diagnosed, getting adequate treatment.

We know that integrated behavioral health (IBH) models can improve outcomes. However, training in such models is inadequate, and they are not fully implemented in most primary care settings. Integrating behavioral health models into primary care creates a holistic environment for care providers to assess and treat not only patients' general medical conditions but also their behavioral health needs. Implementing these models improves access to care and provides opportunities to smoothly transition patients toward receiving care from behavioral health specialists.

The National Center for Integrated Behavioral Health (NCIBH) at Mayo Clinic was funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration as a collaborative, multidisciplinary initiative to catalyze training of primary care providers in IBH models. We collaborate with five other Academic Units for Primary Care Training and Enhancement to advance health equity with integrated behavioral health models.

The NCIBH promotes training and adoption of IBH models through research, a community of practice and dissemination of best practices. We invite you to join our community of practice to advance the critical work of improving access to high-quality models for integrating treatment of mental health and substance use disorders in primary care.

Visit the Connect page to learn more about collaborating with us.