Op-ed: Behavioral health model thrives with integrated services
Momentum for Health’s largest outpatient facility located at 2001 The Alameda, where clients can receive mental health care, substance use treatment and support services such as job search assistance. Photo courtesy of Momentum for Health.

Our country has a long history of fragmented health care.

People with more than one medical condition often have to get care in different places, with providers who use different recordkeeping systems and who don’t always talk to each other to coordinate care. In California, this has been especially true within the behavioral health care system. Mental health and substance use treatment have long been treated in different facilities and by different providers, organized in two very separate siloes.

Thankfully, times are changing, and our health care systems are finally catching up with the knowledge that better outcomes come from integrated care—treating the whole person instead of just one symptom or disease in isolation. Integrated care is especially important in behavioral health, where many individuals suffer from co-occurring mental illness and substance use diagnoses.

California is acknowledging the benefits of integrated care through the new CalAIM plan which began implementation earlier this year, and now it’s time for providers to adapt.

CalAIM calls upon us to embrace the best practices for whole-person care, providing wraparound services that include mental health care, substance use treatment, and even supportive services like employment/vocational training and independent housing. Organizations that are able to provide a multitude of services under the same roof, so to speak, are better equipped to reduce barriers to entry for the client, making the overall system of care less complex and easier to access.

At both Momentum for Health and Parisi House on the Hill, we know this is the model for care that just makes sense. That’s why, after 25+ years of collaborating as sister agencies, we are taking the next step. Later this year, Parisi House will become a program of Momentum for Health.

On the surface, we are very different organizations. Over the past 60+ years, Momentum has provided a variety of outpatient, residential and wraparound services to a broad population with a range of behavioral health needs. Parisi House, on the other hand, has spent the past 25 years operating a highly specialized residential program serving pregnant women and mothers of young children recovering from addiction. Their unique model allows these women to recover in an immersive healing environment while providing excellent support for their children, who are able to live with them and stay out of foster care.

Despite their differences, what Momentum and Parisi House both have in common is a deep commitment to caring for the whole person. Above all else, we want to make sure our services continue to be available to community members who need us well into the future.

As CalAIM moves forward and behavioral health care continues to evolve, more providers will need to consider similar changes. For larger organizations like Momentum, adding more options to our list of services means our clients will have more opportunities. For smaller, specialized agencies like Parisi House, joining forces with others is often the best way to ensure these critical services thrive in an era of administrative overhaul.

By allowing providers to band together, we can combine our resources to allow greater adaptability and better options for the clients who depend on us all.

Pat Mitchell is executive director of Parisi House on the Hill. David K. Mineta is president and CEO of Momentum for Health.

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