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The future includes integration strategies

November 24, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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As you close out 2015, you’re no doubt making your bets on what the next few years might hold for behavioral health. Next year’s election could change the policy landscape, so that’s one to watch. But regardless of who is in the White House, the effects of the Affordable Care Act will continue to drive iterations in your day-to-day operations.

For example, as emerging comprehensive care models gain attention, you’ll notice a greater cry for the integration of behavioral health and primary care complemented by more strategic thinking and data-driven decision making. Ideally, you’ll be treating people—not delivering episodes of care—and you’ll be approaching them with every bit of data and every personal cue you can gather.

Your strategy must include integration

The jury’s out on the prevalence of true integration efforts today. I find that primary care providers believe integration is clicking along quite well, mostly because they’re being incentivized to create medical homes that offer more comprehensive care. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) also seem to have patches of successful integration projects in the form of co-located services that are incentivized with grant money. Look at the grants SAMHSA has given out recently to get an idea of what’s possible. 

I spoke to Marvin Ventrell, executive director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) and asked him what he sees in his crystal ball. He says integration stands out as the pathway to the future. And there is still a long way to go to achieve more collaborative, inclusive models of care.

“There is a valid reason why it is resisted by some, but it seems like an emotional response,” Ventrell told me. “It’s a legitimate concern that integration seems like the loss of the independent addiction treatment residential facility.”

Ventrell says the industry and NAATP have not done a good enough job in educating the larger behavioral health and medical community on the value of integrated, psycho-social care, including spiritual care. New initiatives to educate physicians on the treatment of SUD with pharmacotherapy don’t emphasize the lifelong behavioral changes that are necessary for recovery, but they should, he says.

Financial incentives are driving the trend of whole-person care, but clearly, the opportunities vary market to market. Now is the time to study your markets and think strategically about which direction the cash might be flowing and how you can stay ahead of the trend.

Here I am with Marvin earlier today.


Julie Miller

Editor in Chief

Julie Miller


Julie Miller has more than 14 years of experience observing, analyzing and reporting on various...

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