If you or a loved one has sought out mental health services recently, you are painfully aware of the long wait times to see a mental health professional. Depending on the resources in a particular area people can wait from weeks to months before seeing someone. For some the wait is too long which leads to poor outcomes like unnecessary suffering, suicide attempt, completed suicide, or self-medication with drugs or alcohol. The bottom line is… there are more people in need of services than there are providers to meet the need.

So… the questions remains, how do we provide access to quality mental health services given the numerous barriers to treatment including: cost, physical limitation, geographic isolation, transportation, stigma, etc.?

The Collaborative Care Model seeks to address these concerns.

What is the Collaborative Care Model?

The goal of this model is to integrate mental health treatment and physical health care into already existing and familiar settings. The mental health provider works directly with non-mental health providers to deliver quality mental health services.

This means that instead of referring a patient out to mental heath services, the mental health services come to the patient. This is of particular importance in rural or underserved areas where providers embedded into clinics is limited. Telepsychiatry is also a viable option to bridge this gap. Instead of having a provider physically in the office, a secure video chat system can link patients to licensed psychiatrists all over the world. This greatly expands the number of providers able to treat, thus increasing access to care.

Benefits of a Collaborative Care Model

  1. Primary care and mental health care can be delivered in a setting that is familiar to the patient
  2. Reduces risk for duplicate assessments
  3. Often leads to a better patient experience
  4. Strong evidence for better outcomes
  5. Patients are tracked in a registry to make sure they are not lost to follow up and are progressing toward their desired treatment goals
  6. Goals are measured by evidence-based tools, and treatment is changed based on level of improvement
  7. Providers are reimbursed for quality of care and good outcomes, not for the number of patients they see and the amount of care provided
  8. Significant cost reduction with regard to healthcare spending

Does it work?

Yes! There are over 80 randomized controlled trials that have shown collaborative care is more effective than the status quo. The evidence is not just for collaborative care in the United States. There is strong data that supports this model’s use worldwide.  

See the video below to learn more:


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