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Open Access Integrated primary care‐behavioral health program development and implementation in a rural context

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY-NC licence.

Objective: Despite the known benefits of integrated primary care and behavioral health services, integrated behavioral health services have not been readily used in medical clinics in interior Alaska. With minimal resources, we recently developed an integrated primary care‐behavioral health program in a medical clinic in interior Alaska to meet clinic and community needs. The objective of this study was to explore initial program outcomes and determine the feasibility of program development and implementation.

Methods: We initially conducted a needs assessment for integrating behavioral health services into primary care. Program development was informed by specific clinic needs. Following program implementation, initial program outcomes were tracked with use of data from the electronic health record and patient and provider use and satisfaction surveys. The level of integration of primary care and behavioral health services was evaluated with the Practice Integration Profile.

Results: A total of 188 patients were seen by behavioral health consultants during the initial pilot phase, including 44.0% referred for mental health symptoms, 33.1% referred for physical health issues, and 22.3% referred for both mental and physical health issues. The initial program outcomes indicate modest clinical improvement (measured by the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire) as well as patient and provider satisfaction with the model, and a moderate level of practice integration.

Conclusion: On the basis of the initial findings, it appears that our integrated primary care‐behavioral health program has the potential to serve an important role in addressing the behavioral health needs of the local population. Our implementation procedure and initial program outcomes suggest that such models are feasible in rural and small-scale settings with minimal overhead costs.
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Keywords: Integrated healthcare; behavioral health; primary care; program development; rural healthcare

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2018

More about this publication?
  • Family Medicine and Community Health (FMCH) is an open-access journal focusing on subjects that are common and relevant to family medicine/general practice and community health. The journal publishes relevant content across disciplines such as epidemiology, public health, social and preventive medicine, research and evidence based medicine, community health service, patient education and health promotion and health ethics. The journal has a specific focus on the management of chronic illness particularly diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, chronic heart failure, hypertension, bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive airways disease and common mental illness. FMCH is published by Compuscript http://www.compuscript.com on behalf of the Chinese General Practice Press http://www.chinagp.net.

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