Behavioral health – also known as mental health – is a critical part of any patient care plan. Integrating behavioral health practices into primary care helps patients to not just survive, but thrive, in every aspect of their lives. Here in Massachusetts, the Health Policy Commission (HPC) promotes this integration by awarding PRIME certification to health care facilities that are committed to integrating behavioral health and primary care services. Fenway Health is proud to be the first community health center to be certified under PCMH PRIME in Massachusetts.
Fenway Health’s Alicia Anderson, Director of Quality Improvement, and Jane Powers, Director of Behavioral Health, were recently featured in a story on the importance of behavioral health and primary care integration in the NCQA Annual Report. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality.
“We’ve always had social workers embedded within our primary care practice in different roles over the years,” Anderson said in the piece. “And we had been looking to expand that role and have them much more integrated with the primary care team beyond our historical integration, which was around more community resources and care coordination issues.”
As Powers explained, integration of behavioral health into primary care has been shown to lower the barriers that too many – especially LGBTQ people – often face to mental health services. Some patients have reported that it also minimizes feelings of stigma. Rather than being referred to an outside provide who is identified as a behavioral health specialist, the patient meets with someone who’s already part of their health care team in their primary care setting.
“So, it reduces barriers, reduces stigma and promotes access,” Powers said.
“For me, as a clinician, [PCMH PRIME certification] validates that this is best practice. It’s exciting to have that be recognized,” she added. “Best of all, I think it’s better for the residents of Massachusetts; regardless of where they get their care, they should be able to have a practice that understands the importance of behavioral health as part of primary care.”