Blog Post

The Missing Piece: Transforming Patient Care Through Behavioral Health Integration

By Sarah Hanchett, LCSW, Vice President of Clinical Services

Therapist shortages. Prevailing stigma. Weeks or months to begin treatment. The odds are stacked against people struggling with their mental health. Mental Health America’s 2023 report shows that:

  • 55% of American adults with a mental illness receive no treatment
  • 28% of all adults with a mental illness reported not being able to receive treatment
  • 23% of adults who report experiencing 14 or more mentally unhealthy days each month were not able to see a doctor due to costs

What are people supposed to do?

The report’s harrowing findings reinforce why I joined evolvedMD in 2017: the current approach to health care isn’t cutting it. We’ve proven with our unique model that we can deliver superior patient care by embedding therapists onsite at their preferred primary care practice. But if primary care practices don’t integrate behavioral health, and fast, many patients stand to become another statistic in America’s worsening mental health crisis, a crisis that sees suicide as a leading cause of death and over 50 million adults experiencing a mental illness.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in America and how behavioral health integration (BHI) can reverse the trend:


What’s happening in America now: Symptoms get worse. Most mental illnesses don’t improve on their own and, if left untreated, worsen and intensify. While it varies person to person, even patients with mild symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other conditions should receive treatment immediately. Worsening symptoms may increase the likelihood of experiencing a mental health crisis including suicidal ideation.

The solution people deserve: Symptoms improve much faster. With a therapist embedded within a primary care practice, patients get the help they need BEFORE a crisis ensues. Treatment can be started immediately and patients see meaningful and measurable reductions in symptoms within a month of beginning treatment.

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What’s happening in America now: Long delays in receiving care. The National Council of Mental Wellbeing reports the average wait time to receive mental health care is about six weeks. In some cases, patients may wait months. While the workforce shortage is partly to blame, patients with adverse symptoms can’t afford to suffer this long.

The solution people deserve: Scheduling first appointment almost immediately. If patients screen positive for symptoms, they can have their first appointment with a licensed therapist at their preferred primary care practice within hours rather than weeks or months. Time to care goes from months to days, allowing for time to heal rather than suffer.

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What’s happening in America now: Lack of comprehensive services. Patients with mental health conditions are at risk of experiencing chronic physical conditions, and vice versa. While both can be addressed in primary care, PCPs often don’t have enough time in typical 10-minute appointments to discuss mental health concerns at length, and many patients can’t find a therapist to talk to in the community. When a therapist is found, she/he is not trained to treat physical ailments. Not addressing the whole person results in poorer clinical outcomes.

The solution people deserve: Upfront, ongoing, and comprehensive treatment. A patient can see their trusted PCP to address physical health and then visit the onsite therapist for 40 minutes to address mental health. If needed, a psychiatric consultant will work with the patient’s PCP to prescribe and manage medication. It’s a truly collaborative, comprehensive effort that addresses the whole person to improve clinical outcomes – all in the same practice. A patient simply gets more with this model.

What’s happening in America now: Stigma and negative attitudes. Stigma deters many people from seeking help in community settings. Normalizing public conversations about mental health certainly helps, but stigma and negative attitudes still discourage many people from seeking professional help. This leads to worsening of symptoms.

The solution people deserve: Reduced stigma and positive support. Patients routinely visit the primary care practice they trust, and when their practice offers mental health services, patients feel more comfortable seeking treatment in a supportive and familiar environment. There is zero prejudice, discrimination, or judgment.

What’s happening in America now: Inconsistent and unaffordable care. Some insurance plans cover mental health visits, but unequal coverage and low payouts result in some therapists not accepting insurance. Most individuals spend between $100 to $200 per hour-long session. High-quality, affordable care should not be this out of reach for so many people.

The solution people deserve: High-quality care without breaking the bank. The cost of mental health services is similar to a typical visit with a PCP most times. For example, if patients normally pay a $35 copay each time they visit their PCP, they will most likely pay the same $35 each time they visit the onsite therapist.

Our unique model has effectively addressed each of these barriers. Robert Claflin, DO, CAQSM, at HealthyU Clinics had this to say about our partnership and innovative approach:

“Working with evolvedMD in our clinic has been a fantastic experience for both our patients and our providers.  Having evolvedMD behavioral health specialists on-site has led to our patients having much more accessible and convenient options for therapy and provides a more cohesive patient care environment by having their mental health providers available to discuss patient care. This collaborative care model allows us to improve patient outcomes by treating the whole patient.”

The solution is clear: integrating behavioral health services in primary care is more effective, affordable, and convenient for patients. Since 2017 we’ve treated 25,000 patients and increased access to care to over one million people, and our impact continues to grow as we expand into Colorado and other states. Where would you like to see us grow next?

Interested in seeing a therapist onsite at your primary care practice?
Tell your PCP to integrate behavioral health services.

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About Sarah: Sarah Hanchett is a well-rounded and collaborative mental health professional with expertise in facilitating a compassionate and supportive care environment. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), she is committed to delivering exceptional integrative care to both individuals and families in need. As evolvedMD’s Vice President of Clinical Services, Sarah leads and supports a team of engaging and effective providers to ultimately deliver critical behavioral health services to practices nationwide. As the first employee of evolvedMD, Sarah’s experience and expertise helped establish the company as a national leader in behavioral health integration. Her attentive, engaging persona carries well beyond office and clinic hours as she enjoys spending time with her partner, supporting both of her children’s athletic pursuits, volunteering for her church and winding down with a good mystery novel.

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