NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

  • This publication is provided for historical reference only and the information may be out of date.

This publication is provided for historical reference only and the information may be out of date.

Cover of Integration of Mental Health/Substance Abuse and Primary Care

Integration of Mental Health/Substance Abuse and Primary Care

Evidence Reports/Technology Assessments, No. 173

Investigators: , PhD, MBA, , MD, , PhD, , MD, , MD, MSCE, , PhD, and , MD, MPH.

Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); .
Report No.: 09-E003

Structured Abstract


To describe models of integrated care used in the United States, assess how integration of mental health services into primary care settings or primary health care into specialty outpatient settings impacts patient outcomes and describe barriers to sustainable programs, use of health information technology (IT), and reimbursement structures of integrated care programs within the United States.

Data Sources:

MEDLINE®, CINAHL, Cochrane databases, and PsychINFO databases, the internet, and expert consultants for relevant trials and other literature that does not traditionally appear in peer reviewed journals.

Review Methods:

Randomized controlled trials and high quality quasi-experimental design studies were reviewed for integrated care model design components. For trials of mental health services in primary care settings, levels of integration codes were constructed and assigned for provider integration, integrated processes of care, and their interaction. Forest plots of patient symptom severity, treatment response, and remission were constructed to examine associations between level of integration and outcomes.


Integrated care programs have been tested for depression, anxiety, at-risk alcohol, and ADHD in primary care settings and for alcohol disorders and persons with severe mental illness in specialty care settings. Although most interventions in either setting are effective, there is no discernable effect of integration level, processes of care, or combination, on patient outcomes for mental health services in primary care settings. Organizational and financial barriers persist to successfully implement sustainable integrated care programs. Health IT remains a mostly undocumented but promising tool. No reimbursement system has been subjected to experiment; no evidence exists as to which reimbursement system may most effectively support integrated care. Case studies will add to our understanding of their implementation and sustainability.


In general, integrated care achieved positive outcomes. However, it is not possible to distinguish the effects of increased attention to mental health problems from the effects of specific strategies, evidenced by the lack of correlation between measures of integration or a systematic approach to care processes and the various outcomes. Efforts to implement integrated care will have to address financial barriers. There is a reasonably strong body of evidence to encourage integrated care, at least for depression. Encouragement can include removing obstacles, creating incentives, or mandating integrated care. Encouragement will likely differ between fee-for-service care and managed care. However, without evidence for a clearly superior model, there is legitimate reason to worry about premature orthodoxy.


Prepared for: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.1 Contract No. 290-02-0009. Prepared by: Minnesota Evidence-based Practice Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Suggested citation:

Butler M, Kane RL, McAlpine D, Kathol, RG, Fu SS, Hagedorn H, Wilt TJ. Integration of Mental Health/Substance Abuse and Primary Care No. 173 (Prepared by the Minnesota Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02-0009.) AHRQ Publication No. 09-E003. Rockville, MD. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. October 2008.

This report is based on research conducted by the Minnesota Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) under contract to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Rockville, MD (Contract No. 290-02-0009). The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors, who are responsible for its content, and do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. No statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The information in this report is intended to help clinicians, employers, policymakers, and others make informed decisions about the provision of health care services. This report is intended as a reference and not as a substitute for clinical judgment.

This report may be used, in whole or in part, as the basis for the development of clinical practice guidelines and other quality enhancement tools, or as a basis for reimbursement and coverage policies. AHRQ or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorsement of such derivative products may not be stated or implied.

No investigators have any affiliations or financial involvement (e.g., employment, consultancies, honoraria, stock options, expert testimony, grants or patents received or pending, or royalties) that conflict with material presented in this report.


540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850. www‚Äč

Bookshelf ID: NBK38632


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page

Related publications

Similar articles in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...