Published Date: January 29, 2015

More than 70 percent of behavioral health conditions are first diagnosed in the primary care setting. Yet physical and behavioral health care are typically provided separately, compelling many vulnerable patients to navigate the complexities of two separate systems of care.

This policy brief examines five community health centers (CHCs) in California that have taken preliminary steps toward creating “one-stop shopping” for both physical and behavioral health care. The steps taken to increase integration by the CHCs include employing behavioral health providers, using a single electronic health record that includes both physical and behavioral health data, transforming the physical space, and developing mechanisms for effective transition of patients between providers. 

The findings emphasize the importance of changes to Medi-Cal reimbursement policies to promote same-day visits, as well as the importance of cultural changes to integrate behavioral health. They also highlight the need for comprehensive tools to assess and promote integration and to identify solutions for the most challenging activities required to achieve full integration.