Our goal is to improve health outcomes and related costs through the widespread implementation of integrated behavioral health. 

The first place most people go when they are sick is to their primary care doctor. Sometimes, what makes a person feel unwell is a physical issue, like a cold or the flu. Other times, the real problem has to do with untreated mental illness or a substance use disorder.

Behavioral health issues (mental illnesses and substance use disorders) are among the leading health concerns in Montana communities. But, until recently, few primary care practices were able to identify and treat these issues regularly. The Integrated Behavioral Health Initiative is changing the landscape and helping create a new standard of care for primary care providers and patients in Montana.

“Integrated behavioral health” (IBH) means providing primary physical health care and behavioral health services together in the same place and at the same time.”

Primary care is most effective when it focuses on the whole person and includes screening and treatment for behavioral health issues. The “integrated behavioral health” model starts with screening for common behavioral health problems during the appointment and provides immediate care for common issues like depression, anxiety, and substance use right away, as a part of the same appointment. The model also includes care coordination to help address barriers that can make it harder to get well, like poor housing, hunger, and lack of transportation.

Studies show this model of care helps primary care practices provide more effective care, with better outcomes for illnesses ranging from diabetes to depression. It reduces health care costs too because early diagnosis and treatment can help lower the chances of a medical emergency down the road. And, it helps make sure that specialty behavioral health services – which are in short supply in Montana – are available to those who need them most.

With the help of innovative hospitals and clinics, the Integrated Behavioral Health Initiative is changing the standard of care for patients across the state. As of December 2019, the initiative has helped integrate behavioral health services into more than 50 primary care settings.  

Initiative Strategy

Our goal with this initiative is to improve health outcomes and reduce related costs through the widespread implementation of the integrated behavioral health model of care. To do this, we are working to bring together a cohort of innovative primary care providers who will integrate behavioral health services into their practices. We emphasize strengthening partnerships between primary care and existing behavioral health practices whenever possible. By participating in this initiative, our grantees will promote the more effective use of existing resources and the stronger alignment of community partners.

Our core strategies include integrating behavioral health services into the following settings:

  • The Federally Qualified Health Center Network
  • Prospective Payment System Hospitals (Montana’s largest hospitals)
  • Critical Access Hospitals
  • Tribal Health Departments
  • Urban Indian Health Centers

As part of this initiative, we are also making targeted investments in other settings such as university and college student health clinics and other nonprofit primary care practices.

Funding Opportunity

This initiative provides funding for hospitals and clinics that provide primary care and are interested in integrating behavioral health services. All grantees will join a cohort and receive technical assistance and training from state and national experts.

For each of the grants we award, we expect sites to:

  • Commitment to pursuing the nine core elements of integrated behavioral health.
  • Provide a formalized commitment to the project by clinical and administrative leadership.
  • Develop a viable business plan and proforma for sustaining the program beyond the grant term.

We review each application we receive according to our selection criteria. We recognize that each project reflects a unique set of needs and challenges. Reviewers apply the selection criteria holistically as a lens to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and potential challenges with every application.

If you are interested in participating in the Integrated Behavioral Health Initiative grantee cohort, please contact our office.

The Meadowlark Initiative

Focus Area: Behavioral

Our Work in Integrated Behavioral Health

2020 Call for Proposals

New grant opportunities coming soon.