Counseling and Wellness Services Integrated with Primary Care: A Delivery System That Works

Primary Care, managed care


Ken Van Beek, LMSW; Steve Duchemin, PA-C; Geniene Gersh, MA, LLP; Susanne Pettigrew, PA-C; Pamela Silva; Barb Luskin


Introduction: The continuity and coordination of care between medical and behavioral health services is a major issue facing our health care delivery system. Barriers to basic communication between providers of medical services and providers of behavioral health services, include: no coordination of services, and poor recognition of the relationship between medical and behavioral issues.

Methods: Colocating behavioral health counselors and nutritionists alongside primary care physicians and clinicians (PCPs).

Results: Grand Valley Health Plan (GVHP) established the national benchmark for patients using ambulatory services for mental health, and ranked first in Michigan on all six HEDIS "effectiveness of care" measures for behavioral health. One result was a 54% decrease in mental health hospitalization.

Discussion: Up to 70% of primary care visits are driven by psychosocial factors, with 25% of patients having a diagnosable mental disorder, and comorbidity occurring in up to 80%. With colocated services, PCPs now often explain to patients that "this is just how we deliver care to you," when introducing health coaches to patients and asking them to be involved.


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