September 21, 2021, 11:30 a.m. News Staff — The Academy and 17 other medical and health care groups this month endorsed legislation that would help advance the collaborative care model in primary care offices.
The Collaborate in an Orderly and Cohesive Manner Act (H.R. 5218) would amend the Public Health Service Act to invest in increased implementation of the collaborative care model in primary care offices, chiefly through $30 million a year in grants targeted at physicians and practices treating underserved populations. The bill was introduced Sept. 10 by Reps. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.
In collaborative care, which research strongly supports as an effective model, a primary care physician leads a multidisciplinary team (including a psychiatric consultant and a care manager) to treat a patient’s behavioral health issues. It’s covered by Medicare, most private insurers and many states’ Medicaid programs.
“Family physicians are well positioned to address their patients’ mental health issues and receive high-quality training in these areas,” AAFP President Ada Stewart, M.D., of Columbia, S.C., said of the COCM Act in a Sept. 10 press release. “Integrating primary care and mental health services is timely and important given the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, where we expect to see an increase in patients seeking treatment.”
The Academy this summer called on Congress to advance the collaborative care model, including via grants, in testimony submitted June 25 to the Senate Finance Committee, for a hearing titled “Mental Health Care in America: Addressing Root Causes and Identifying Policy Solutions.” The AAFP said the model’s team-driven, population-focused, measurement-guided, evidence-based nature leads to greater accountability and quality improvement.
As a recent FPM editorial put it, “Fully integrating behavioral health in primary care is the gold standard for care. … It is not meant to be a handoff of care, but a team-based approach supporting the work of the primary care physician.”
As Stewart said in the press release, “Primary care physicians, who often have strong relationships with patients before the onset of mental illness and a deep understanding of social context and community factors, will be critical in treating unmet mental health needs — now and for years to come.”