Meeting the Challenges of the Changing Environment

SAMHSA is at the forefront of helping the behavioral health workforce implement and use new and evolving practices and technologies.

Increasing the Capacity to Address Behavioral Health

To facilitate the readiness of behavioral health organizations to compete in this environment, SAMHSA created the BHbusiness Plus Initiative through a partnership with the State Associations of Addiction Services, which works in collaboration with NIATx, the National Council for Behavioral Health, and Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. BHbusiness Plus works with hundreds of behavioral health providers across the nation. The initiative is made up of five components:

  • Meaningful Use of Health Information Technology
  • Eligibility and Enrollment
  • Contract Negotiation
  • Third-Party Billing and Compliance
  • Strategic Business Planning

In addition, based on the success of the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) Program, SAMHSA is asking Congress for additional funding for the Behavioral Health Information and Privacy Center of Excellence. The center will help coordinate technical assistance to provider organizations, health information exchanges (HIEs), states, consumers, and vendors.

Health Information Technology (HIT)

In the past, the behavioral health system operated independently from the overall health system, and it differed in the type and scope of information technology used. SAMHSA is working with the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to facilitate the exchange of electronic health records (EHRs) to help Americans with behavioral health conditions benefit from an integrated health record while giving them options to protect the confidentially of their sensitive health data.

For more information, visit the topics Health Information Technology and Laws, Regulations, and Guidelines.

In the SAMHSA Budget Fiscal Year 2015, SAMHSA is proposing to Congress the promotion of widespread implementation of HIT systems that support quality, integrated behavioral health care. HIT, such as web-based services, smart phones, telehealth, electronic applications (apps), and EHRs, can help connect behavioral health care workers to more people that previously lacked access to services. For example, SAMHSA provided supplemental funding to the Primary Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) Program to help dozens of grantees become meaningful users of EHR technology.

Federal and community stakeholders have developed standards and guidelines for enabling data segmentation and management of patient consent preferences. SAMHSA is using these standards to develop the application, branded Consent2Share, as an open source tool for consent management and data segmentation that is designed to integrate with existing EHR and health information exchange (HIE) systems.

Integration with Primary Care

SAMHSA is interested in implementing full behavioral health integration. The Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity to improve health care quality by encouraging the integration of primary and behavioral health care, as well as integration of health and behavioral health prevention and wellness efforts and the integration of behavioral health and other specialty care. Since physical and behavioral health issues often occur at the same time, health care professionals want to consider all health conditions at once. Therefore, more primary care practices have behavioral health professionals on staff or close referral relationships with mental and substance use providers, and more behavioral health organizations are integrating primary care into their service mix. Likewise, since prevention in public health efforts requires collaboration among many issues and efforts, SAMHSA supports the inclusion of these issues within community coalitions, schools, senior centers and other community programs.

SAMHSA addresses one aspect of this anticipated need in the SAMHSA Budget Fiscal Year 2015 by requesting funds to support a new integration initiative that links substance use disorder treatment services and primary care. The Primary Care and Addiction Services Integration (PCASI) Program would enable providers to offer a full array of both physical health and substance abuse services. It also includes a focus on workforce development.

In addition, to support anticipated demand, the SAMHSA-Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS) promotes the development of integrated, bidirectional primary and behavioral health services to better address the needs of people with mental health and substance use conditions. For further information on CIHS’ activities, refer to its behavioral health workforce page, which discusses how workforce development is essential to integrated care. Core Competencies for Integrated Behavioral Health and Primary Care – 2014 (PDF | 2.1 MB) has additional information. Learn more about health financing integration.

Further, SAMHSA’s Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program focuses on practitioners in non-specialty settings using motivational interviewing to screen, assess, provide brief preventive interventions, and refer people who may have substance use issues. Refer to SBIRT grantees information for the many academic and professional programs offered to develop the provider workforce.

Last Updated: 10/09/2014