Methods: A 36-item scale was developed using integrated behavioral health care core competencies as described by Reiter’s description of the Primary Care Behavioral Health Model. The scale collected demographic information and asked participants to rate their level of agreement with various statements regarding integrated behavioral health and the use of professional social workers in delivery of mental, behavioral, and social health care services. The scale concluded with three open-ended questions about benefits and challenges to integrated behavioral health and the use of professional social workers on these teams.
The scale was distributed via email to various healthcare clinics, professional organizations, and clinicians within large health care systems following convenience and snowball sampling approaches. Participants were asked to complete the scale within 4 months of original email delivery. General demographic data were collected from each respondent and frequency analyses were conducted. To generate mean and standard deviation scores for each scale item, as well as to test if there were significant differences among these mean scores by professional grouping, a one-way ANOVA was conducted for each scale item. Data were analyzed using IBMÒ SPSSÒ Statistics Version 25. Qualitative data collected from open-ended responses were analyzed thematically using an open coding schema in MAXQDA version 18.2.0.
Results: 104 responses were collected representing physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, administrative professionals, and other healthcare professionals. A majority of responses were from Southeastern states. In general, all professional groups held positive attitudes about integrated behavioral health and the use of professional social workers in delivering mental, behavioral, and social care services on these teams. However, the degree of agreement on each scale item varied by professional group and some scale items yielded disagreement among professional groups. Results indicate that there is misunderstanding about the training and competencies of professional social workers.
Conclusions and Implications: Results provide evidence that health care providers value both integrated behavioral health and the use of professional social workers to deliver mental, behavioral, and social health care services. However, this research provides new evidence that different professional groups within health care have differing opinions regarding the training and expertise of professional social workers on integrated care teams. More research is needed regarding how professional social workers are integrated into health care teams across the continuum of care services and the roles and functions they assume on such teams. Finally, limitations and implications for social work education will be presented.