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Understanding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration Pillars

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration to better address mental health and substance use as part of the country’s overall approach to health care.

As mentioned in our previous blog, the roadmap provides an overview of how HHS aims to advance integrated care within the three pillars outlined in President Biden’s Strategy to Address our National Mental Health Crisis (the “President’s Strategy”) — Strengthen System Capacity, Connect Americans to Care, and Support Americans by Creating Healthy Environments — presented in his first State of the Union address.

Here’s a closer look at each of the three pillars’ aims and policies:

1. Strengthen System Capacity

This pillar, Strengthen System Capacity, aims to expand the supply and diversity of the current behavioral health workforce and ensure access for all to a variety of behavioral health care methods.

The implementation of this pillar requires training a broader set of health and human services providers — like health care, social service, and early childhood providers — to recognize and address behavioral health conditions. It also means ensuring this workforce is diverse in order to better care for traditionally underserved populations like those with disabilities, communities of color, LGBTQI+ individuals and American Indian/Alaska Native persons.

This pillar also aims to address the technology gap between behavioral health care providers and physical health care providers when it comes to communication and interoperability of systems. HHS plans to invest in the infrastructure that supports behavioral health integration, such as workforce development, technology adoption and quality measurement.

2. Connect Americans to Care

The second pillar, Connect Americans to Care, focuses on bridging the gap between services offered and Americans’ ability to access the care they need.

Affordability was the top concern for adults who perceived an unmet need for mental health services in the past year, according to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Additionally, delivering on this pillar also requires that behavioral health care become available in settings that are easily accessible — especially to those patients considered to be high-risk individuals for behavioral health conditions.

HHS will advance this pillar by making reforms to health care financing in order to improve affordability of care, while also engaging in more outreach to those in high-risk communities.

3. Support Americans by Creating Healthy Environments

The third pillar, Support Americans by Creating Healthy Environments, aims to create a unified society dedicated to wellness across all fronts and support a healthy environment when it comes to promotion, prevention and recovery.

Furthering this pillar requires widespread adoption of interventions that promote wellness, prevent co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, and improve health outcomes overall for Americans.

HHS aims to create structural supports and provide funds to integration promotion and prevention programs in community-based settings. This means the Department will deliver on this pillar by expanding the evidence base for effective promotion and prevention programs, and then putting those discoveries and activities into practice through HHS grant-funded programs and other financial means.

As HHS builds upon these three pillars, the Department will work with many organizations already making a positive impact in the health care space.

Cordant will continue to work with our partners and clinicians to provide solutions that help make treatment for substance use and mental health disorders more accessible to improve health outcomes for those affected.