In 2017, the opioid epidemic claimed nearly 48,000 lives. The same year, one in five U.S. adults had a behavioral health issue — yet more than half didn’t receive behavioral health services. 

The truth: Substance use disorders and mental illness affect nearly every community — and America’s hospitals and health systems are on the front lines of treating them. 

Today, many health care leaders understand how important integrating behavioral health services with physical health services is to treating patients with these illnesses, improving their health outcomes and lowering health care costs. But we still have room to improve. 

That’s why the newest Market Insights report from the AHA Center for Health Innovation focuses on how hospitals and health systems can take steps to integrate behavioral health services into every health care setting so they can save lives and lead their communities forward. 

Specifically, it details actions hospitals and health systems can take in the emergency department and inpatient setting, in the outpatient setting and in the community. Some examples: Make behavioral health assessments routine for all patients, and put processes in place for referral and treatment if needed. Embed behavioral health clinicians in outpatient settings in a collaborative care model. And partner with a community mental health center, certified community behavioral health center, or a variety of other community-based providers and stakeholders. You can read the full report here

This is the latest in a series of AHA resources to help hospital and health system leaders address behavioral health challenges. Our May 2019 TrendWatch demonstrates how increasing access to behavioral health care advances value for patients, providers and communities, and proposes policy recommendations to support improved access. And we recently released a how-to guide for hospitals and health systems seeking to implement, strengthen and sustain telebehavioral health. 

As Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said at this year’s AHA Annual Membership Meeting, our country needs to “treat people’s behavioral health like you treat any other health problem.” Sen. Blunt, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), created the certified community behavioral health clinics demonstration program and are currently working to extend and expand the program. AHA supports these efforts.

Integrating behavioral health services to treat the whole patient across the continuum of care is vital to improving health in our communities — and it’s just one of the many ways hospitals and health systems are working to advance health in America.

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