Integrating Behavioral and Physical Health

The Issue:  Physical & Mental Health Integration

Where We Stand:

NAMI supports coordinated care models that integrate physical and mental health services.  Physical and mental health integration have been shown to improve patient outcomes, save money and reduce mental health stigma.

Why We Care:

Millions of Americans have both a physical and a mental health or substance use condition, yet our health care system largely fails to integrate mental health care with other medical services. This fragmented system produces poorer health outcomes and higher costs – in the form of higher insurance premiums in the private market, as well as greater state and federal budget expenditures for public programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

By bringing doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists together, integrated mental and physical health care:

  • Normalizes and de-stigmatizes mental health treatment;
  • Ensures that all health needs are addressed holistically, leading to proper treatment and better quality of life;
  • Helps address the physical health needs of people with mental illnesses;
  • Helps reduce the fragmentation between behavioral and physical health services; and
  • Is critical for positive health outcomes and cost-effective care.

How We Talk About It:

  • One in five adults has a mental health condition. Many adults with a mental illness also have at least one physical health condition. 
  • Unfortunately, our health care system often separates physical health treatment from mental health care – leading to worse outcomes for people who live with multiple conditions. 
  • Integrating physical and mental health care works. By integrating health care treatment, people experience better outcomes and reduced stigma – helping them get the care they need, when they need it. 
  • By focusing on an integrated system that uses person-centered care – where individuals participate and engage in their treatment with their health care providers – we can make sure that a person’s wants, needs and preferences are respected. 
  • When physical and mental health care aren’t integrated, people can experience many challenges navigating two separate health care systems. 
  • People may hesitate to seek care from a primary care provider for their mental health needs, which unnecessarily delays treatment for their mental health condition. 
  • Sadly, without integration of care, people with mental health conditions are also less likely to get preventive services and the treatment they need for their physical health conditions – which can lead to people with the most severe mental illnesses dying many years earlier than their peers. 
  • Integrating physical and mental health care can be done in many ways. Treatment services can be offered in the same physical location, or health care providers who aren’t located in the same place can use shared treatment plans. 
  • Regardless of the method used, integrating care can improve early intervention, ensure that co-occurring physical conditions are treated, reduce stigma and, in some cases, save lives.