Integrating behavioral health into primary care has long been a goal of health policymakers throughout the health system. Primary care settings are touched by most people and offer a setting that can be less stigmatizing and easier to access than mental health settings. They also offer opportunities to address the range of health and mental health conditions that frequently travel together. More recently, attention to leveraging the supply of primary care practices to address apparent shortages of behavioral health providers in various locations and treatment settings has given still greater import to efforts to integrate behavioral health and primary care services.

The evolution of the health care system along with important changes in the financing and regulation of mental health care open new opportunities to drive integration of care specifically and improved behavioral health care more generally.

In this paper, we offer strategies to leverage existing programs like Medicare Advantage (MA), the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening Diagnostic and Treatment Program (EPSDT), and Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MMCOs). The key elements of our proposed strategy focus on enhanced performance metrics, linking performance to financial and market consequences, and greater attention to enforcing existing program requirements to integrate care and make behavioral health care more robust overall.

Read the full article about progress on mental and behavioral healthcare by Richard G. Frank and Vikki Wachino at Brookings.