When asked about current challenges within the behavioral health space, hospital executives in a recent HealthLeaders report noted that inadequate reimbursement for behavioral health services, patient access and workforce shortages of psychiatrists and other behavioral health professionals were at the top of their list.1

This report goes on to detail the top challenges hospitals and behavioral health hospitals are working to address in order to meet the opportunity within their communities, therefore reducing overall care costs.

Key strategies to overcome these three challenges within the behavioral health space include:

  1. Optimizing a hospital’s revenue cycle

    Behavioral health regulatory compliance and reimbursement structure is highly-complex and different from a hospital’s core service lines, requiring specialized expertise. 

    One health system executive noted “the big picture is about the overall medical spend. It is not just about what psychiatry can do to make money. It should be about how we can provide cost-effective mental healthcare that is going to improve the overall health of our population. We know that poor mental health contributes to poor physical health and disability, and that is what is costing us billions and billions of dollars.”

    By focusing on how a behavioral health program can fit into a hospital’s care continuum rather than just the revenue bottom line, health systems can begin to see significant change in their communities overall health as access to this vital form of care becomes more readily available.

  2. Integrating behavioral health services in the primary care setting

    When a hospital begins to integrate behavioral health programing into their primary care service lines, a larger patient population can begin to utilize this form of care, therefore relieving ongoing capacity strains on emergency departments (EDs).

    Once a behavioral health program is successfully integrated, utilizing resources such as social workers and telehealth can help patients get in the door – whether it’s virtual or in-person – and begin working toward a healthier future.

    Another factor that has been proven beneficial for behavioral health patient access is the development of stand-alone facilities, especially those built within neighborhood communities. Having a dedicated behavioral health facilities within local communities enables residents to easily access this form of care without having to commute into urban areas that are already overcrowded with patients.

  3. Providing support for behavioral health staff

    Within the healthcare space, staffing has become a growing challenge – especially within local communities. The demanding, high-stress environment has pushed many in the behavioral health workforce to look for other career options.

    One health system executive stated that “one of the ways that we are addressing not having enough psychiatrists is developing treatment teams. The idea is to have several mental health providers all working up to the highest level of their license. By having teams that include nurses, mental health workers, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists, we can start to provide different levels of care to patients and move them up the ladder as needed. It also allows us to provide more cost-effective care to patients."

Benefits of Partnerships in Care Delivery

In order to meet the current and future behavioral health needs of their community, health systems are looking to partnership to expand patient access, and effectively and efficiently manage their behavioral health program while also reducing overall care costs.

Joint venture partnership or contract management of behavioral health service line can help solve many of the challenges within the hospital by creating a best case scenario for both the patients and hospital.

To learn how Kindred Behavioral Health can help your hospital expand its behavioral health services, visit KindredBehavioralHealth.com.


  1. Cheney, C. (2021, December). Tackling the top 3 challenges in Behavioral Health. HealthLeaders Media. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/clinical-care/tackling-top-3-challenges-behavioral-health.
By Kindred