Integrating Primary Care Into Community Mental Health Centers
Impact on Utilization and Costs of Health Care
Published in: Psychiatric Services, 2016
Posted on RAND.org on August 29, 2016
OBJECTIVE: This evaluation was designed to assess the impact of providing integrated primary and mental health care on utilization and costs for outpatient medical, inpatient hospital, and emergency department treatment among persons with serious mental illness. METHODS: Two safety-net, community mental health centers that received a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) grant were the focus of this study. Clinic 1 had a ten-year history of providing integrated services whereas clinic 2 began integrated services with the PBHCI grant. Difference-in-differences (DID) analyses were used to compare individuals enrolled in the PBHCI programs (N=373, clinic 1; N=389, clinic 2) with propensity score–matched comparison groups of equal size at each site by using data obtained from medical records. RESULTS: Relative to the comparison groups, a higher proportion of PBHCI clients used outpatient medical services at both sites following program enrollment (p<.003, clinic 1; p<.001, clinic 2). At clinic 1, PBHCI was also associated with a reduction in the proportion of clients with an inpatient hospital admission (p=.04) and a trend for a reduction in inpatient hospital costs per member per month of $217.68 (p=.06). Hospital-related cost savings were not observed for PBHCI clients at clinic 2 nor were there significant differences between emergency department use or costs for PBHCI and comparison groups at either clinic. CONCLUSIONS: Investments in PBHCI can improve access to outpatient medical care for persons with severe mental illness and may also curb hospitalizations and associated costs in more established programs.