Future research needs for evaluating the integration of mental health and substance abuse treatment with primary care

J Psychiatr Pract. 2013 Sep;19(5):345-59. doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000435034.37685.ce.


Research needs are many in the current health care environment. In this article, we describe a novel method developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Evidence-based Practice Center Program for prioritizing areas for future research. Using a recent- ly published systematic review as a foundation, investigators worked with a diverse group of 10 stakeholders to identify and prioritize research needs. We enumerate 13 high-priority research needs, as determined by stakeholders who represented researchers, funders, health care providers, and patients and families, and discuss considerations for specific study designs. Our findings suggest that future research on integrating mental health and primary care should focus first on a) identifying methods of integrating primary care into specialty mental health settings, b) identifying cross-cutting strategies for integration across multiple mental health diagnostic categories as opposed to a separate strategy for each diagnostic category, and c) examining the use of information technology for integrating mental and general medical health care. Other priorities for consideration include examining the economic and organizational sus- tainability of successful integration models, identifying dissemination methods for various settings, examining the business case for integration as well as methods of payment, assessing the cost-effectiveness of integration, and identifying key components of successful strategies. The importance of sustainability and economic justification for integrated care strategies was a recurring theme in discussions with the stake- holders. The ability to sustain integrated care in everyday practice remains to be proved and will depend in part on the level of incentives and sup- port provided through payment system reform, as well as the ability of practices to provide care efficiently.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / organization & administration*
  • Health Priorities
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*