The Veterans Health Affairs is in the process of implementing a new model for the delivery of primary care: The Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH). One critical challenge of any PCMH model will be the integration of basic mental health treatment into primary care. Such a mental health integration program must be flexible enough to incorporate new evidence-based treatments as patient demographics and health care needs evolve over time. This paper summarizes the Behavioral Health Laboratory (BHL) care management model, a program already in place in more than 20 Veterans Affairs facilities along with private sector insurance providers, as ideally suited to fill this role in the PCMH. The BHL uses a platform of standardized, software-aided mental health assessments and clinical care managers to deliver evidence-based treatments for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in primary care settings. The authors review this comprehensive program of screening, assessment, treatment, and referral to specialty care when needed. The BHL program is consistent with the guiding principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home: applying chronic illness disease management principles to provide more continuous, coordinated, and efficient primary care services to patients with diverse needs. Just as importantly, the authors review how this standardized platform for delivering integrated mental health services provides the flexibility to incorporate novel interventions for a changing population.
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