Engaging Mental Health Counselors in Integrated Care Initiatives



Research from the April 2014 issue of American Mental Health Counselors Association’s (AMHCA) Journal of Mental Health Counseling (JMHC) indicates that, “integrating behavioral health and primary care poses the best shot at slowing down the rate of escalation in health care costs — bending the cost curve — that has been to driven upward by ineffective but expensive care for individuals with chronic comorbid health conditions.” The JMHC April issue on “Mental Health in Primary Care,” corresponds to AMHCA’s new initiative to connect clinical mental health counselors (CHMCs), other practitioners, and researchers to assist [AMHCA members] on integrated care opportunities through the AMHCA Strategic Counselor Engagement and Network Technology (ASCENT) Program.

Journal contributors of the April issue will partner with other practitioners to help counselors find innovate ways to translate the recommendations in the special issue into everyday practice, and to engage primary care physicians and specialists. The goal of the ASCENT effort “is to create more mental health-primary care collaborations among CMHCs, in order to foster optimal, patient-centered, holistic care — in particular for newly insured, underserved, low-resourced racial minority and rural populations.”

The ASCENT initiative is part of AMHCA’s Forum for Learning Opportunities and Working Technical Assistance Collaborative, an electronic forum for sharing and learning about care-delivery measures that address the needs of AMHCA members. ASCENT streaming activities are related to themes highlighted in the JMHC through a set of virtual sessions in which the April journal contributors will discuss their findings and recommendations with counselors and other practitioners. Topics introduced in the set of “conversation starter” virtual sessions include:

  • Basic competencies on integrated care and training in primary care settings,
  • Providing culturally and linguistically competent care, and
  • How to work with primary care physicians to address the needs of patients with comorbid or complex conditions.

The 2014 sessions are scheduled for July 31, August 19, and September 11. After the sessions conclude, Cross-Segment Working Groups of AMHCA members will meet regularly to track and hypothesize from others’ efforts, providing a valuable source of effective integrated care and leading to ideas to develop additional approaches to integrated care.

Access the related article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mhw.20434/pdf

Access more information on the ASCENT program: http://www.amhca.org/member/ascent.aspx