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PCPs Breaking Even on Mental Health Costs

   July 10, 2014

When behavioral health providers and primary care physicians work closely to coordinate care, the integration of mental health care with primary care doesn't have to break the bank.

Physicians who are resistant to treating patients with mental illness may soon have little choice but to embrace what some organizations believe will be the new normal—the integration of behavioral health into primary care practices.

The federal government will soon announce as much as $50 million in grants to healthcare organizations willing to make the accommodation. It's one of several signs that health systems may be getting prepared for an incoming wave of patients because of mental health parity.

The Health Resources and Services Administration says it's expecting fund at least 200 organizations with the grant. The federal agency says it received 600 applications. HRSA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have been working together along with the National Council for Behavioral Health through the Center for Integrated Health Solutions to improve the health of patients who have both a chronic physical disease and mental illness.

Encouraging primary care and mental health providers to work more closely together is a growing trend. Carolinas HealthCare System announced this year it would integrate mental health into its 250 primary care clinics, and Harvard Medical School's Center for Primary Care continues to push the same approach with its Academic Innovations Collaborative partners.

Another major indicator that behavioral health providers and physicians are expected to begin working more closely to coordinate care comes from the 2014 patient-centered medical home standards released earlier this year.


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Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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