Primary Care Playing Large Role in Mental Health Care

John Commins, October 7, 2010

Whether by choice, cost, or lack of alternatives, patients are increasingly turning to their primary care providers for mental health services, a study from the Center for American Progress shows.

More than half of treated patients now receive some form of primary care for their mental disorder, mostly from a primary care doctor, and primary care is now the sole form of healthcare used by more than one-third of patients with a mental disorder accessing the healthcare system, said the study Mental Health Care Services in Primary Care: Tackling the Issues in the Context of Health Care Reform.

The study's author, Lesley Russell, said improving the integration of mental health services needs to be addressed as healthcare reform centralize primary care in the delivery and coordination of healthcare.

Key issues to address include:

  • Mental health workforce shortages and distribution problems
  • The ability of the primary care workforce to diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • The lack of financial incentives for primary care providers to deliver mental healthcare
  • Insurance and financial barriers for patients seeking treatment for mental health disorders
  • Patients’ perceptions and fears that are barriers to accessing appropriate treatments for mental health disorders
  • The quality of mental health services
  • Co-morbidities of mental health disorders with physical illness and substance abuse
  • The need for early diagnosis and intervention
  • Racial and ethnic disparities in mental health services
  • The structure of the healthcare system as an impediment to the integration of mental health services

See also:

Filling the Demand for Mental Health Specialists

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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