CommonSpirit Health Expands Behavioral Health Support through Primary Care Collaboration in Partnership with Concert Health


CommonSpirit Health, a national nonprofit health system serving communities at more than 1,000 care sites and 137 hospitals across 21 states, announced it is offering new access to support for depression and anxiety within the primary care setting through a partnership with Concert Health, a leading behavioral health medical group. This model will place CommonSpirit’s primary care physicians at the center of all physical and behavioral aspects of care by connecting patients with Concert Health’s remotely located behavioral health care managers who provide therapy and develop a behavioral health care plan for each patient.

Access to behavioral health services in the U.S. is challenging at the best of times, and for patients, the lack of care can have far-reaching consequences. More than 115 million Americans live in an area where there is no access to a mental health professional. As a result, many seek care from their primary care provider, with whom they often have a long-term, trusted relationship. In fact, a study found that primary care providers prescribed 79 percent of antidepressant medications. That strong relationship and lack of access to specialty mental health services often leaves primary care providers managing depression and anxiety, without the professional support they need to address their patients’ conditions. Given the proven connection between physical and mental health, it is essential that patients receive the appropriate care and treatment for all of their health needs — physical and mental — in one place, which is most convenient in primary care.

An integrated approach is particularly critical for patients with multiple health conditions. One recent report found that high-risk patients require up to 6.2 times more spending on medical care when they have an active behavioral health diagnosis.

The partnership between CommonSpirit and Concert Health is based on Collaborative Care Management, an evidenced-based model proven to improve behavioral health conditions such as depression and anxiety within the primary care setting.

CommonSpirit’s primary care physicians will now manage all aspects of patient care by diagnosing depression and anxiety in patients and making warm handoffs to a dedicated group of Concert Health’s behavioral health care managers. The Concert Health care managers develop the behavioral health care plan and serve as a liaison between Concert Health’s psychiatric provider and the primary care physician who both review the patient’s progress and make needed adjustments in care. The primary care physician also prescribes medication recommended by the behavioral health care team. Patients meet regularly with their care manager via phone, video visit, or in-person at their primary care location.

Collaborative Care is already a covered benefit for Medicare, most commercial insurance, and under Medicaid in 18 states. CommonSpirit is already working with Medicaid partners in California to ensure it can offer this care to all patients who need it.

“To bridge long-standing gaps between mental and physical health care, we need to turn to evidence-based models that integrate these areas of care and provide real outcomes. Especially for the vulnerable or underserved, seeking behavioral health care in the community can be challenging due to stigma, lack of access, and prohibitive costs,” said Christine Brocato, vice president of strategic innovation at CommonSpirit Health. “By offering coordinated behavioral health services from Concert Health to CommonSpirit’s patients utilizing the Collaborative Care model, we have one team working together to meet all of the patient’s medical and behavioral health care needs in a matter of hours, rather than fragmenting care through referrals that take weeks. Care simply must be inclusive of mind and body.”

“Concert Health is proud to support CommonSpirit’s commitment to comprehensive, outcome-based care for people with behavioral health conditions,” said Virna Little, LCSW, PsyD, co-founder and chief operating officer of Concert Health. “We are excited to partner with CommonSpirit’s outstanding physicians to make these services available to improve health outcomes for their patients.”

Powered by Concert Health, the following new capabilities will expand CommonSpirit’s primary care services: 

Patients are screened for depression and anxiety using evidence-based tools: Without screening, over half of people struggling with behavioral health concerns never get the care they need – either because they lack a diagnosis or don’t realize what it is that they are experiencing.
Instead of external referrals, primary care providers can make warm handoffs to behavioral health providers: CommonSpirit’s primary care providers will work closely with a dedicated team of Concert Health’s behavioral health care managers to provide support in less than 48 hours.
Patients can receive evidence-based psychotherapy interventions at their preferred location: Behavioral health care managers provide a mix of medication management, goal setting, and evidence-based approaches. Patients are given the choice of engaging via video visit, telephone, or in-person care.
The care team is aligned around measurement-based care: A core part of the Collaborative Care model includes regularly assessing behavioral health symptoms, much like is done for diabetes (A1Cs) or hypertension (blood pressure). Concert Health’s team regularly assesses patients’ symptom severity using evidenced-based tools like the Personal Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ9), General Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD7), and Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) and alters patients’ treatment plans.

Psychiatric consultations support the primary care provider: For those patients who need more support, Concert Health’s consulting psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners speak weekly with the behavioral health team to review information and make written recommendations to the primary care provider to support their decision-making around diagnosis, medications, and dosage.

The organizations have initially launched these integrated services in Bakersfield, California to help address the area’s high unmet need for behavioral and mental health care. The program is expected to scale to additional CommonSpirit care sites across the central California region during the remainder of the year as well as to additional markets in 2021.

About CommonSpirit Health

CommonSpirit Health is a nonprofit, Catholic health system dedicated to advancing health for all people. It was created in February 2019 through the alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. With a team of approximately 125,000 employees and 25,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, CommonSpirit Health operates 137 hospitals and more than 1000 care sites across 21 states. In FY 2020, Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health had combined revenues of nearly $29.6 billion and provided $4.6 billion in charity care, community benefit, and unreimbursed government programs.

About Concert Health

Founded in 2016, Concert Health is a leading behavioral health medical group integrating Collaborative Care Management, an evidence based model for treating depression and anxiety, into primary care settings. Concert Health’s clinicians work arm in arm with hundreds of primary care and women’s health medical providers to identify and address the behavioral health needs of all patients.

Headquartered in San Diego, Concert Health, Inc is the management services organization for a group of affiliated professional corporations that deliver medical services. Together, they deliver exceptional care in California, Arizona, New York and Connecticut. Concert Health, Inc and its affiliated medical entities do business under the “Concert Health” brand.