Improving health outcomes and reducing related costs through the widespread implementation of integrated behavioral health in primary care.

The Integrated Behavioral Health Initiative is transforming the standard of care for primary care providers and patients in Montana. Behavioral health issues such as 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.

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

Primary care works best when it focuses on the whole person. The integrated behavioral health model of care starts with screening for behavioral health problems during primary care appointments. Then, patients receive immediate care for common issues like depression, anxiety, and substance misuse as part of the same meeting. 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 improves 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.

This initiative has helped integrate behavioral health services into 62 primary care settings (as of Dec 2019).  

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.

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.

Training Webinars

If you are interested in incorporating behavioral health into primary care services, please visit our library of training webinars by the National Council for Behavioral Health and our other partners.


Initiative Resources

Integrated Behavioral Health Initiative One-pager

Core Elements of Integrated Behavioral Health

Integrated Behavioral Health in Montana Report