New Hampshire residents face challenges with behavioral and physical health conditions and the interplay between them. National studies show the costs and the burden of illness from behavioral health conditions and co-occurring chronic health conditions that are not adequately treated in either primary care or behavioral health settings. Bringing primary health and behavioral health care together in integrated care settings can improve outcomes for both behavioral and physical health conditions. Primary care integrated behavioral health works in conjunction with specialty behavioral health providers, expanding capacity, improving access, and jointly managing the care of patients with higher levels of acuity

In its work to improve the health of NH residents and create effective and cost-effective systems of care, the NH Citizens Health Initiative (Initiative) created the NH Behavioral Health Integration Learning Collaborative (BHI Learning Collaborative) in November of 2015, as a project of its Accountable Care Learning Network (NHACLN). Bringing together more than 60 organizations, including providers of all types and sizes, all of the state’s community mental health centers, all of the major private and public insurers, and government and other stakeholders, the BHI Learning Collaborative built on earlier work of a NHACLN Workgroup focused on improving care for depression and co-occurring chronic illness. The BHI Learning Collaborative design is based on the core NHACLN philosophy of “shared data and shared learning” and the importance of transparency and open conversation across all stakeholder groups.

The first year of the BHI Learning Collaborative programming included shared learning on evidence-based practice for integrated behavioral health in primary care, shared data from the NH Comprehensive Healthcare Information System (NHCHIS), and work to develop sustainable payment models to replace inadequate Fee-for-Service (FFS) revenues. Provider members joined either a Project Implementation Track working on quality improvement projects to improve their levels of integration or a Listen and Learn Track for those just learning about Behavioral Health Integration (BHI). Providers in the Project Implementation Track completed a self-assessment of levels of BHI in their practice settings and committed to submit EHR-based clinical process and outcomes data to track performance on specified measures. All providers received access to unblinded NHACLN Primary Care and Behavioral Health attributed claims data from the NHCHIS for provider organizations in the NH BHI Learning Collaborative.

Following up on prior work focused on developing a sustainable model for integrating care for depression and co-occurring chronic illness in primary care settings, the BHI Learning Collaborative engaged consulting experts and participants in understanding challenges in Health Information Technology and Exchange (HIT/HIE), privacy and confidentiality, and workforce adequacy. The BHI Learning Collaborative identified a sustainable payment model for integrated care of depression in primary care. In the process of vetting the payment model, the BHI Learning Collaborative also identified and explored challenges in payment for Substance Use Disorder Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). New Hampshire’s residents will benefit from a health care system where primary care and behavioral health are integrated to support the care of the whole person. New Hampshire’s current opiate epidemic accentuates the need for better screening for behavioral health issues, prevention, and treatment referral integrated into primary care. New Hampshire providers and payers are poised to move towards greater integration of behavioral health and primary care and the Initiative looks forward to continuing to support progress in supporting a path to sustainable integrated behavioral and primary care.

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