Integrating Behavioral Health into Primary Care

Popul Health Manag. 2016 Apr;19(2):81-7. doi: 10.1089/pop.2015.0039. Epub 2015 Sep 8.


Depression is one of the more common diagnoses encountered in primary care, and primary care in turn provides the majority of care for patients with depression. Many approaches have been tried in efforts to improve the outcomes of depression management. This article outlines the partnership between the University of Washington (UW) Neighborhood Clinics and the UW Department of Psychiatry in implementing a collaborative care approach to integrating the management of anxiety and depression in the ambulatory primary care setting. This program was built on the chronic care model, which utilizes a team approach to caring for the patient. In addition to the patient and the primary care provider (PCP), the team included a medical social worker (MSW) as care manager and a psychiatrist as team consultant. The MSW would manage a registry of patients with depression at a clinic with several PCPs, contacting the patients on a regular basis to assess their status, and consulting with the psychiatrist on a weekly basis to discuss patients who were not achieving the goals of care. Any recommendation (eg, a change in medication dose or class) made by the psychiatrist was communicated to the PCP, who in turn would work with the patient on the new recommendation. This collaborative care approach resulted in a significant improvement in the number of patients who achieved care plan goals. The authors believe this is an effective method for health systems to integrate mental health services into primary care. (Population Health Management 2016;19:81-87).

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Behavioral Medicine*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Humans
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Washington