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Tuesday Tidbits: Integrating Physical and Behavioral Health Care in a One-Stop Shop

Tuesday Tidbits: Integrating Physical and Behavioral Health Care in a One-Stop Shop

Welcome to Tuesday Tidbits! If you would like your resource/event to be highlighted, please let me know at ddexter@cpehn.org. Thanks!

If you’ve been following our blog over the last couple weeks, you know that we have been doing a lot of work on improving California’s mental health system. We have been to Fresno, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego for town hall meetings to receive public comment on the California Reducing Disparities Project’s draft Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Mental Health Disparities.

At these events, we have received a lot of great feedback, and a lot of it has focused on the best ways to provide behavioral health services to California’ diverse communities. We have heard a lot about integrating medical care and behavioral health services in a single, community-based environment. Many have supported this strategy, and now, thanks to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, we have some data to demonstrate the effectiveness of behavioral health integration. The recently released brief, One-Stop Shopping: Efforts to Integrate Physical and Behavioral Health Care in Five California Community Health Centers, takes a look at five large community health centers — which treat anywhere from 12,000 to 70,000 patients per year — and how they have integrated medical and behavioral health services.

The study finds that behavioral health integration does produce better health outcomes. They point out that patients with both chronic health conditions and behavioral health needs are twice as likely to end up in the emergency room as patients with just physical health conditions. The authors pointed out how integration can curb this trend:

"A general practitioner might spot a mental health issue, but patients often fall through the cracks because they have to wait weeks and travel to separate facilities before they get care. Many don't even go," said Nadereh Pourat, director of the Center's Health Economics and Evaluation Research Program and lead author of the study. "But if a mental health professional works in the same office and even sees the patient at the same time as their GP, treatment is more likely to be immediate and effective."

At our recent town halls we often heard of the importance of moving out of a “siloed” approach to health services where each aspect – primary care, behavioral health, and others – operate apart from each other. Much of the public comment we have received stresses the importance of a holistic approach to health and wellbeing that is linguistically appropriate and considers the unique cultural makeup of California’s diverse population. With this new report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, we now have more documented evidence to support this approach.

You can check out the full report on the UCLA Center’s website, and if you’re interested in commenting on the CRDP draft strategic plan, you can do so on our website until February 17th.

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