Improving behavioral health outcomes through multidisciplinary research
The prevalence and severity of behavioral health issues, which includes mental illness and substance use disorders, has risen sharply in the United States. In 2021, more than 57 million Americans aged 18 or older reported the prevalence of mental illness in the last year, while 44.1 million met the criteria for having a substance use disorder.
For several decades, RTI has collaborated with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) to collect, analyze, and provide data around national estimates of mental illness and substance use disorders, as well as illicit drug, tobacco, and alcohol use.
Despite the rising numbers of individuals affected by mental illness and substance use disorders, utilization of behavioral health services remains low. The 2020 NSDUH report found that nearly 50% of respondents cited the inability to afford care as their most common reason for not seeking or utilizing behavioral health services. Many other factors contribute to the underutilization of services, including negative past experiences; stigma; lack of accessible, culturally competent providers; and other social factors.
Research into the Effectiveness of Behavioral Health Integration
Behavioral health integration is a potential remedy to this critical issue. It involves the collaboration of primary care physicians, behavioral health specialists, and specialty clinicians to create a person-centered care model that improves health outcomes. Our experts are evaluating the effectiveness of behavioral health integration models through the development of economic and epidemiological studies. RTI researchers are also working on creating, implementing, and evaluating behavioral health interventions.
Our research allows our federal partners to identify and implement equitable, data-driven solutions to improve our nation’s behavioral health along the full spectrum of care—including prevention, treatment, and intervention.