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Integrating Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment

Integrated treatment produces better outcomes for individuals with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. Without integrated treatment, one or both disorders may not be addressed properly. Mental health and substance abuse authorities across the country are taking steps to integrate systems and services, and promote integrated treatment:

Systems and service integration are closely interrelated

Systems Integration involves the development of infrastructure within mental health and substance abuse systems to support integrated service delivery. It can occur in systems of any size, including an entire state, a region, county, agency or program.

Systems integration focuses on reorganizing the framework within which agencies and programs operate. It includes integrated system planning, implementation, and continuous quality improvement including developing mechanisms for addressing:

  • financing
  • regulations and policies
  • program design and certification
  • interprogram collaboration and consultation
  • clinical "best practice" development
  • clinician licensure
  • competency and training
  • information systems
  • data collection
  • outcome evaluation

Services Integration refers to the process of merging separate clinical services to meet the individual's substance abuse, mental health, and other needs. Services integration has two levels:

  • Integrated programs are changes within an entire agency that help practitioners provide integrated treatment.
  • Integrated treatment occurs at the individual-practitioner level and includes all services and activities.

Services integration means providing at a minimum:

  • integrated screening for mental and substance use disorders
  • integrated assessment
  • integrated treatment planning
  • integrated or coordinated treatment
  • continuing care

The overall vision of an integrated system is to effectively serve individuals with co-occurring disorders no matter where they enter the system. Click below to learn more about key activities undertaken to integrate systems and services:

Resources and Links