Cornell University Health Services Offers Integrated Medical and Behavioral Health Services



In a white paper on integration in college health centers, an American College Health Association (ACHA) task force concluded that, “An integrated approach between counseling and health services may allow for an alignment of support services and systems,” and “may provide the best foundation for providing holistic care to students[1].” 

The approach taken at Cornell University Health Services (CUHS, also known as “Gannett Health Services”), located in Ithaca, New York, includes colocation of services; multidisciplinary clinical teams; behavioral health screening (e.g., depression, anxiety, alcohol use) during primary care visits; cohesive communication strategies; innovative outreach programs; and a comprehensive electronic health record shared by all providers. According to Dr. Janet Corson-Rikert, Associate Vice President for Campus Health, integration of medical and behavioral health services is a growing focus in college health, and is essential to providing high-quality care for students while containing cost. Recent H1N1 and suicide crises underscored both the central role that the model plays in emergency preparedness and campus public health, as well as the value of extending that model to incorporate community resources and stakeholders. 

Cornell’s values and sense of shared responsibility for student health are evident, from presidential statements to strategic planning (“Educational Excellence,” #5), and from a comprehensive mental health framework that reflects best practices represented by the Model for Comprehensive Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion.

Proud of all they’ve accomplished, Dr. Corson-Rikert looks forward to what the future holds. “We are engaged with an evolving effort in our local community focused on coordination of care among providers. We’re also exploring pioneering programs like Cherokee Health Systems in Tennessee (including a consultation with Dr. Parinda Khatri), the Institute for Family Health in New York, and the Military Health System, and are excited about incorporating some of their best practices for integration into our own.” 

For more information about Cornell’s program, visit their website or email CUHS

[1] American College Health Association Considerations for Integration of Counseling and Health Services on College and University Campuses (2010). Linthicum, MD: American College Health Association. Page 1.