Advancing Behavioral Health Outcomes in Primary Care


Increasingly, California’s primary care safety net is striving to provide whole-person care, which requires that providers be able to identify, manage, and address a patient’s physical, behavioral (mental health and SUD), and social needs. However, less than half of adult Medi-Cal enrollees with mental illness received a mental health service, and there remain significant racial/ethnic disparities in access and outcomes. For example, Latino/x and Black Californians report higher rates of unmet needs for behavioral health care compared to their White and Asian counterparts. COVID-19 has exacerbated these problems.

California’s community health centers (CHCs) have greatly expanded their behavioral health capacity; however, only a minority of CHCs provide a suite of behavioral health services and proactively manage patient outcomes. Given the growing mental health crisis in California, continuing to expand access to integrated behavioral health care in CHCs is a priority for CHCF.

Advancing Behavioral Health Outcomes in Primary Care

In 2021, CHCF funded the Center for Care Innovation to launch and run the Advancing Behavioral Health Outcomes in Primary Care project, a learning collaborative of 14 CHCs with the goal of improving behavioral health outcomes, especially among Black, Latino/x, Indigenous, Asian Pacific Islander, LGBTQA, and non-English-speaking patients. CHCs will expand their behavioral health programs, align programs with social needs care and resources, and adopt health equity practices.

Project Duration

Spring 2021 to fall 2023

Participating CHCs

  • Chinatown Services Center (Los Angeles)
  • Community Health Centers of the Central Coast (Santa Maria)
  • Eisner Health (Lose Angeles)
  • Elica Health Centers (Sacramento)
  • Korean Community Services(Anaheim)
  • Los Angeles County University of Southern California Primary Care (Los Angeles)
  • Marin City Health and Wellness Center (Marin City)
  • Petaluma Health Center (Petaluma)
  • Samahan Health Centers (National City)
  • Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinic (Santa Barbara)
  • The Achievable Foundation (Culver City)
  • UC Davis Health (Davis)
  • Valley Springs Health & Wellness Center (Valley Springs)• Via Care Community Health Center (Los Angeles)

Project Outcomes

  • Participating CHCs will:
    • Identify, manage, and treat mental health conditions and substance use disorders
    • Identify and address patients’ unmet social needs (e.g., food insecurity) through consistent screening, tracking, and robust referral processes
    • Reduce barriers to care — specifically, racism, discrimination, and trauma — by actively embracing health equity practices
  • Project takeaways contribute to a better understanding of how CHCs can address patients’ unmet social needs in an integrated behavioral health program within current FQHC reimbursement structures.
  • The project will yield practical tools that advance behavioral health equity in CHCs, in California and nationally.

For more information, contact Kathryn Phillips, senior program officer for Improving Access.