New York State Health Foundation Integrating Mental Health and Substance Abuse Care
Author: Stephen Isaacs, Paul Jellinek, Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, Kelly A. Hunt, Will Bunch
Roughly half of all people with severe mental disorders also have substance abuse problems. Yet their care is fragmented: They are treated by either the mental health system or the substance abuse system. In New York State only 10 percent of them receive evidence-based treatment for both conditions. Beginning in 2007 the New York State Health Foundation and two state agencies—the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services—began collaborating on ways to integrate the treatment of people with co-occurring disorders. The state agencies removed financial and regulatory barriers to integrated treatment. The foundation provided funding to establish the Center for Excellence in Integrated Care. The center’s goal: provide hands-on assistance in implementing best practices to at least half of the state’s 1,200 mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics. An evaluation found that the percentage of clinics using best practices doubled after the regulatory and financial changes and the center’s intervention. This illustrates the potential that foundations, governments, and nonprofits, working collaboratively, have to improve the care of a neglected and difficult-to-serve population.