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The Benefits of Integrated Mental Health Care

It's no secret America is experiencing a mental health crisis. It's time for a better approach.

In recent years, our conversation on the importance of mental health awareness has burgeoned. The reality is that the United States is facing a mental health crisis. One in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness each year, and one in 25 adults experiences serious mental illness. Only about half of those with mental illness receive treatment.

The US has a real need for improved policy that supports integrated care in the healthcare system. Integrated care is a model of care that brings together physical and mental health care in order to provide comprehensive care for patients. 

Physical and mental health symptoms are deeply interconnected. As the National Alliance of Mental Illness states, “While we experience mental health symptoms throughout our entire bodies, our healthcare system has long separated physical health treatment from mental health care.” This is why mental health care integration is important.

This type of care can be integrated in many ways. The first is by using physicians and nurses alongside social workers and therapists. By bringing in a variety of experts, the healthcare system can better address a patient's holistic needs. By implementing mental health care, we can decrease the stigma surrounding mental health and create accessibility to mental health professionals and care.

Healthcare policy is a means to work towards integration in the healthcare system. The US could promote integration through increased funding in mental health sectors and by launching public awareness campaigns to reduce mental health stigma and encourage early help-seeking behavior. Additionally, there are recommendations to improve the ability of primary care providers to understand the mental health needs of their patients. These include increasing pay, better training and revised academic education.

Insurance is also a sector in which policy can be changed. The Bipartisan Policy Center recommends “Expanding Medicare coverage to additional behavioral health provider types to deliver services within integrated care settings and increase scholarship opportunities and pipeline programs to diversify and broaden the workforce." These are just a few ways in which addressing healthcare policy would encourage mental healthcare integration. Integrated mental health care is a vital part of addressing the mental health crisis in the United States. By making policy changes that promote integrated care, we can help to prioritize patient outcomes, reduce stigma and create better physical and mental health outcomes for patients.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

Sources: 

Bipartisan Policy Center. "Behavioral Health Integration 2021." Bipartisan Policy Center, 31 Mar. 2021, https://bipartisanpolicy.org/report/behavioral-health-2021/.

NAMI. "Why We Need Mental Health Care Integration." NAMI Blog, 8 Mar. 2022, https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/March-2022/Why-We-Need-Mental-Health-Care-Integration


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