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Assessment and staff perceptions of mental health and substance use disorders integration in primary care


Due to health-care reform, the integration of behavioral health (substance use disorder and mental health) services into primary care settings has taken on increased urgency. Project Care is an innovative county-funded integration initiative in Kern County, California, which uses a screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) model to build capacity for behavioral health care in two federally qualified health centers and one county medical center's outpatient clinic. Implementation strategies included funding to implement SBIRT reimbursement for the provision of two services (e.g., physical and mental health) in the same day, monthly provider meetings, trainings, technical assistance, and feedback in the form of evaluation reports to participating sites. As part of the program, assessments were conducted to measure integration progress.


Repeated assessments of integration were conducted using the Dual Diagnosis Capability in Health Care Settings index (DDCHCS), which is a standardized organizational-level measure comprised of seven dimensions (e.g., program structure, clinical process—assessment, training), as well as surveys measuring staff perceptions of integration. Both types of assessments included baseline and yearly follow-ups at nine participating health center locations over the course of 3 years (2011–2014). A mixed model was used for analysis of the DDCHCS data to account for the repeated measures for each site. A generalized linear model with interaction terms was utilized in the analysis of staff survey data.


Significant improvements in participating organizations' DDCHCS overall mean scores were observed over time (p < .0001) after accounting for differences in organization, with the greatest change occurring between the baseline and first follow-up assessments. Similarly, average staff ratings of medical staff's effectiveness with behavioral health, communication between medical and behavioral health staff, and helpfulness of behavioral health services all showed significant increases (p < .05) from baseline to the first and second follow-up assessments.


Most of the improvement in both the DDCHCS scores and staff survey ratings was observed between the baseline and first follow-up assessments. Overall, improvements shown at the first follow-up were maintained at the second follow-up. Results indicate that organizational capacity to deliver integrated services and staff satisfaction with integrated behavioral health care increased over time, and suggest that integration is feasible and acceptable.


This study was supported by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS; D. Urada, PI) and Kern County Mental Health (KCMH; R. Rawson, PI). Special thanks to the Project Care participants. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the DHCS, KCMH, or UCLA.

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Correspondence to Cheryl Teruya.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Teruya, C., Tran, E., Urada, D. et al. Assessment and staff perceptions of mental health and substance use disorders integration in primary care. Addict Sci Clin Pract 10 (Suppl 1), A65 (2015).

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