Funder: Blue Shield of California Foundation

Author: Allison Hamblin, Michelle Herman Soper, and Teagan Kuruna, Center for Health Care Strategies

June 2016 |


Integrating physical and behavioral health care, including mental health and substance use services, is essential for providing effective care for high-need populations. Recent changes in Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, provide opportunities to test new strategies for integration, including:

  • “Carving in” a new set of mental health benefits for individuals with mild-to-moderate mental health needs into Medi-Cal managed care plans; and
  • Improving coordination between the managed care plans and the county mental health system that provides services for individuals with severe mental illness.

In implementing these changes, the plans and counties have made significant investments in new infrastructure and relationships to ensure effective care coordination across systems.

This brief, made possible by Blue Shield of California Foundation, draws on interviews with leaders from California Medicaid managed care plans, county mental health plans, and a managed behavioral health organization. It outlines a set of promising practices for successfully integrating mental health services into comprehensive health benefit packages and building partnerships between health plans and counties to coordinate mental health care benefits. These insights should inform continuing efforts to promote integrated care for Medi-Cal members, as well as integration efforts in other states.