UW News

April 29, 2011

National thought leaders in mental health and healthcare delivery gather for summit in Seattle

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

UW Advanced Integrated Mental Health Solutions (AIMS) Center

Meeting aims to generate national roadmap for integrating mental health and primary care in patient-centered medical homes


A press briefing will be held at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 3 at Cedarbrook Lodge in Sea-Tac, Wash. (the location of the meeting) on the outcomes of this working meeting. Dr. Jürgen Unützer from the University of Washington will summarize the meeting and discuss action plans over the next year.

A select group of thought leaders and researchers are participating in a two-day summit meeting in Seattle Monday, May 2, and Tuesday, May 3, to explore opportunities to integrate mental health services into primary care in the era of healthcare reform. The meeting includes representatives of the federal government, health plans, healthcare delivery organizations, public policy and other interested organizations.

The meeting is hosted by the AIMS (Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions) Center at the University of Washington (http://uwaims.org). The goal of the summit is to develop a national roadmap for insuring that all Americans have access to high quality, evidence-based mental health care delivered in the context of a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH).

The summit also kicks off a year-long effort during which work groups formed at the meeting will pursue action plans to increase access to evidence-based integrated care. Work group topics include:

  • Healthcare financing
  • Health information technology
  • Mental health parity
  • Consumer engagement
  • Training and workforce development
  • Research

“Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, are among the most common and disabling health conditions worldwide,” said Dr. Jurgen Unutzer, professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington and director of the AIMS Center. “They often co-occur with chronic medical diseases, like diabetes, and can substantially worsen health, increase mortality and raise overall healthcare costs.”

Dozens of research studies published over the past 20 years have demonstrated the effectiveness of integrating treatment for common mental disorders into primary care. As research evidence mounts supporting the integration of mental health care into primary care, interest in the dissemination of evidence-based models is growing among payers, policy makers, healthcare providers and health-care consumers.

“Recent healthcare reforms, including the Patient-Centered Medical Home and Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), present a timely opportunity to accelerate the implementation of evidence-based integrated mental health services for common mental disorders in primary care,” said Dr. Ed Wagner, director of the MacColl Institute for Healthcare Innovation at Group Health in Seattle. Wagner is an internationally recognized leader in developing treatment protocols for managing chronic medical conditions like diabetes.

Funding for the summit is provided by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and several leading foundations, including The John A. Hartford Foundation, The California Healthcare Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For details about the summit meeting and the year-long process that it kicks off, as well as progress on the specific action plans developed during the meeting, please visit the AIMS Center website at http://uwaims.org.