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Integrated Care
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What Is Integrated Care, and Why Is It Important?

Integrated care (also known as integrated health, coordinated care, or collaborative care) is a whole-person approach to delivering coordinated mental and physical health — all in one setting. This model of care acknowledges that:

  • Primary care settings, such as a doctor's office, provide about half of all mental health care for common psychiatric disorders.
  •  Adults with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders also have higher rates of chronic physical illnesses and die earlier than the general population.
  •  People with common physical health conditions also have higher rates of mental health issues.

As a result, coordinating mental health, substance use, and primary services provides the best possible outcomes for people with multiple health care needs. Many of Michigan's community health centers are working toward care integration, functioning as veritable one-stop shops for all their patients' needs.

How It Works

Integrated care meets all of a patient’s health needs in one setting. Services can be delivered in multiple ways depending on who is providing the care, what type of care is being provided, where the care is taking place, and how services are being coordinated. Integration can take place in behavioral health, primary care, specialty clinics, and home health settings.

There are different levels of services integration. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) designed a framework to help health care providers plan and support an integrated system. That framework has three main categories: 

  • Coordinated care, which concentrates on communication.
  • Co-located care, which focuses on physical proximity.
  • Integrated care, which emphasizes practice change.

Within each category, there are varying degrees of collaboration between care providers. These levels range from minimal to full integration. Minimal integration is when medical and mental health care providers work in separate facilities, have separate systems, and rarely communicate. Full integration involves a single health system’s medical and mental health care providers working simultaneously to treat a patient’s behavioral and medical needs with shared medical record access. 

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