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Malka Berro

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

National Council Hosts Congressional Briefing on Integrated Care Program

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On Monday, July 24, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing held a briefing for Congressional staff on the importance of the SAMHSA Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) program. PBHCI supports the integration of behavioral health care into primary care settings, with the goal of improving the physical health status of people with serious mental illness (SMI) and addiction. This staff briefing, sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), highlighted grantees from Connecticut, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

The current life expectancy of someone with a mental illness or addiction in the United States is 25 years younger than that of someone in the general population. Research shows that this population has high occurrences of largely untreated, co-occurring, chronic physical health conditions that come as a by-product of that mental illness or addiction. The PBHCI program aims to lower chronic disease risk indicators to raise life expectancy and quality of life for people with an SMI or substance use disorder. The program has been widely successful, showing substantial improvements in physical health, reductions in substance use, and millions of dollars saved per year.

The briefing brought together superstar grantee programs to demonstrate the value and impact the PBHCI grant has on organizations and communities across the country. Highlights of the panelist presentations include:

Peggy Winsman, Whole Health Community Health Resources, CT (CHR) Prior to grant, most CHR clients had not seen a primary care provider in over 10-15 years. If they felt sick or in need of services, they would go to the ER. Now, she says, “75% of the people who enter our Whole Health program actively use primary care services on site to improve health and wellbeing.” Ms. Winsman also noted that she has seen a marked increase in her clients’ confidence and ability to manage their own care. “Consumers regularly tell me they now have hope and health because of their involvement in our PBHCI-funded program.”

Steven LaFleur, Grand Lake Mental Health Center, OK (GLMHC) GLMHC has greatly benefited from integrated care – having everything in one building, with one medical record, and one doctor, significantly simplifies the intake, coordination and treatment process. Through the PBHCI program, GLMHC lowered ER visits in the area by 40%. Through the grant, GLMHC consolidated visits and saved a great deal on unnecessary hospitalizations.

At the end of its four-year grant, GLMHC turned lessons learned into an innovative pilot program providing iPads to clients for 24-hour mental health crisis support, which has now assisted over 675 consumers. This program, made possible by the system-wide integration achieved during the PBHCI grant years, also involves local police, who can quickly Facetime a mental health professional to determine if psychiatric admission is necessary.

Kathy Rogers & Andrew Schwend, Preferred Family Healthcare, MO (PFH) In their region, many people with an mental illness or addiction have a difficult time accessing health care because the area is rural, and thus often forgo receiving the treatment they need. PFH integrates medical and mental health needs in one facility, allowing for a higher consistency and quality of obtainable care. “Through PBHCI funds, we take care of more people by treating them where they want to be treated, the same day,” said Ms. Rogers.



While the House of Representatives has committed to maintaining level funding for this grant, the Senate will begin work to fund the PBHCI program for Fiscal Year 2018 soon and we need your help. Take time today and urge your legislator to support integrated care!