Never before have mental health providers been able to do so much to improve mental health. A range of treatments, from pharmacological approaches to device-based interventions and evidence-based psychotherapies, have reached broadscale levels of acceptance and can be delivered efficiently.
Yet today, getting access to care is seemingly more challenging than at any time in history. An estimated 1 in 5 Americans annually needs mental health treatment, yet due to provider shortages, persistent stigma, prohibitive cost, and inadequate insurance, less than half of these Americans receive care they need. The unmasking of “ghost networks” reveals a national crisis that requires not just policymaker attention, but also urgent action.
Now is the time to embrace sustainable care delivery models, especially within academic medical center (AMC)-led health systems. With dedicated billing codes, alongside substantial efficacy and efficiency evidence available, the collaborative care model (CoCM) can improve interdisciplinary communication and deliver comprehensive care. It is likely to take unnecessary burdens off the backs of providers. When coupled with enabling technology, CoCM provides a means of meeting patients where they are and supporting primary care physicians and pediatricians on the frontlines of the mental health crisis.
AMC-led health systems are well-positioned to lead and should be urged to adopt and expand collaborative care to reach more patients. Along with their tripartite educational, clinical, and research missions, these systems have been designed to serve all people, including the disadvantaged and under-represented. These health systems hold dominant market positions in often-urban locales and nurture trusted brand reputations. With so much unmet need, now is the time to expand and improve mental healthcare by embracing collaborative care.