Working toward financial sustainability of integrated behavioral health services in a public health care system

Fam Syst Health. 2012 Jun;30(2):181-6. doi: 10.1037/a0028177. Epub 2012 May 7.


The need, benefit, and desirability of behavioral health integration in primary care is generally accepted and has acquired widespread positive regard. However, in many health care settings the economics, business aspects, and financial sustainability of practice in integrated care settings remains an unsolved puzzle. Organizational administrators may be reluctant to expand behavioral health services without evidence that such programs offer clear financial benefits and financial sustainability. The tendency among mental health professionals is to consider positive clinical outcomes (e.g., reduced depression) as being globally valued indicators of program success. Although such outcomes may be highly valued by primary care providers and patients, administrative decision makers may require demonstration of more tangible financial outcomes. These differing views require program developers and evaluators to consider multiple outcome domains including clinical/psychological symptom reduction, potential cost benefit, and cost offset. The authors describe a process by which a pilot demonstration project is being implemented to demonstrate programmatic outcomes with a focus on the following: 1) clinician efficiency, 2) improved health outcomes, and 3) direct revenue generation associated with the inclusion of integrated primary care in a public health care system. The authors subsequently offer specific future directions and commentary regarding financial evaluation in each of these domains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Colorado
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / economics*
  • Efficiency, Organizational / economics*
  • Mental Health Services / economics*
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Pilot Projects
  • Public Health*