From the Director
Research Activities, January 2012, No. 377
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) supports diverse projects that advance the primary care patient-centered medical home (PCMH) that comprehensively treats the whole person. However, the PCMH will not achieve its goals of comprehensive and quality care, unless and until it embraces and addresses patients' mental health needs. Hence, AHRQ strongly supports projects that foster integration of mental health services in primary care.
We held the Mental Health Forum and Town Hall at the AHRQ annual meeting this September to fully explore the topic. Nine national leaders in health care provided experiences and insights about the clinical/community, financing/policy, and research aspects of integrating mental health into primary care. The Forum was also set up to be as interactive as possible, so that health care professionals, researchers, policymakers, the public, and other stakeholders nationwide could participate in the discussion via a live Twitter feed. The attending audience also actively participated with comments and questions.
The result? A rich exchange of information and experiences that elevated the discussion with a candid appraisal of barriers to integration, promising models of integration, and suggestions for research to improve implementation of integrated care.
AHRQ has developed an Academy for Integrating Mental Health and Primary Care (http://prezi.com/pdwleusvlceo/the-ahrq-academy-for-integrating-mental-health-and-primary-care) to function as both a coordinating center and a national resource for people committed to delivering comprehensive, integrated health care. The goal is a centralized and respected resource to provide the tools and materials necessary to advance the field of integration: We want to promote a collaborative environment that fosters dialogue among leaders who treat mental/substance use disorders and provide primary care.
Once mental health care is part of care in a person's "medical home," the less the stigma of mental health problems and greater willingness of people to seek treatment. The result will be truly patient-centered care that treats the whole patient.
Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.