Integrated Behavioral Health Care in Family Medicine Residencies: A CERA Survey


Background and Objectives: Behavioral health integration (BHI) in primary care settings is critical to mental health care in the United States. Family medicine resident experience in BHI in family medicine residency (FMR) continuity clinics is essential preparation for practice. We surveyed FMR program directors to characterize the status of BHI in FMR training.

Methods: Using the Council of Academic Family Medicine Educational Research Alliance (CERA) 2017 survey, FMR program directors (n=478, 261 respondents, 54.6% response rate) were queried regarding the stage of BHI within the residency family medicine center (FMC), integration activities at the FMC, and the professions of the BH faculty. BHI was characterized by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) designations within FMRs, and chi-square or ANOVA with Tukey honest significant difference (HSD) post hoc testing was used to assess differences in reported BHI attributes.

Results: Program directors reported a high level of BHI in their FMCs (44.1% full integration, 33.7% colocated). Higher levels of BHI were associated with increased use of warm handoffs, same day consultation, shared health records, and the use of behavioral health (BH) professionals for both mental health and medical issues. Family physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists were most likely to be training residents in BHI.

Conclusions: Almost half of FMR programs have colocated BH care or fully integrated BH as defined by SAMHSA. Highly integrated FMRs use a diversity of behavioral professionals and activities. Residencies currently at the collaboration stage could increase BH provider types and BHI practices to better prepare residents for practice. Residencies with full BHI may consider focusing on supporting BHI-trained residents transitioning into practice, or disseminating the model in the general primary care community.