Integrated healthcare – the coordination of physical and behavioral health care services – is a core component of MHA of Greater Houston’s work. Although physical and mental health is linked, our health care system has traditionally addressed them separately. Integrated healthcare aims to abolish this separation, an important step in providing access to and normalizing behavioral health treatment.
Individuals with behavioral health disorders often have physical health conditions as well, and vice versa. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease often are accompanied by behavioral ailments such as depression or anxiety. Behavioral health needs are most often presented first in a primary care setting, yet research shows that approximately half of those individuals with behavioral health disorders go undiagnosed in primary care. Individuals with severe mental illnesses are less likely than the general population to receive primary care services, and they die of physical ailments an average of 25 years early than the rest of the population.
For these various reasons, integrated health care has emerged as a model for more effective and efficient health care for mind and body. Integrated healthcare is gaining recognition in Texas as a viable way to improve people’s health by treating physical and behavioral illnesses together. The 81st Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2196 creating a statewide work group to make recommendations on integrating physical and behavioral health care in Texas.
MHA of Greater Houston is working to help advance integrated health care in Texas through the Texas Learning Community on Integrated Health Care and the Houston/Harris County Integrated Healthcare Workgroup for Serious and Chronic Illness. We are also exploring other opportunities to continue to support the expansion of integrated healthcare locally and/or statewide.