Laura Galbreath, M.P.P., Director
SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions, National Council for Behavioral Health
Walk into a community behavioral health or health center right now and you’ll probably see posters about this great new health care approach called integration. What is integration, though? And what does it look like?
As our health care system strives to improve patient health outcomes, improve the quality of care, and make care affordable, a collective light bulb has gone off. To achieve these three aims—known by the phrase “the triple aim”—we have to recognize and treat people’s physical and emotional health, and that means changing how we deliver care. Integration is one approach receiving a lot of attention for its promise to achieve these aims.
When my friends and family ask what integration is, I explain it like this: Integration improves access to mental health and addictions treatment by making that care a routine part of a visit to primary care, whether at the lowest level of integration (improved communication among providers) or the highest (a merged practice that includes both medical and mental health services). Integration also improves the quality of recovery by addressing the physical health care needs of people with mental illnesses and addictions.