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Reading: Social Workers in Integrated Behavioral Health & Community Health: A Scoping Review


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Social Workers in Integrated Behavioral Health & Community Health: A Scoping Review


Nicole Milano ,

Rutgers University, School of Social Work, New Jersey, United States, US
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Liana Petruzzi

University of Texas at Austin, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, US
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Background: Social workers are key team members of integrated behavioral health (IBH) teams. Yet there is limited evidence of the presence of social workers on IBH teams outside of primary care settings and their effectiveness in improving patient outcomes warrants further investigation. Therefore, the objective of this study was to 1) identify all outpatient settings in which social workers engage in IBH; 2) define their roles on IBH teams; and 3) explore the impact of social workers on IBH teams among a variety of health care settings.

Methods: Research literature was identified using the following search engines: Academic Search Complete, PsycINFO, CINAHL Plus, SocINDEX & MEDLINE. An exploratory search was conducted in January 2021 and an updated search was conducted in August 2021. Search results identified 802 references and 50 articles met the criteria for full-text review. Nine articles were identified through supplemental searching. Twenty articles were included in the final review.

Results: Of the twenty studies included, most were randomized control trials (45%; n=9), followed by pre/post comparisons (25%; n=5), retrospective comparisons (15%; n=3), qualitative studies (10%, n=2), and matched comparison (5%; n=1). Studies varied across settings including specialty care (40%; n=8), community-based practices (35%; n=7), and primary care (25%; n=5). The majority of studies (65%; n=13) reported a reduction in depression severity. Other outcomes measured include reduced emergency department visits (20%; n=4), improved quality of life (5%; n=1), and mental health symptoms of PTSD, bipolar disorder, or anxiety (10%; n=2). The results also noted eight unique terms to describe the study itself including integrated care (25%; n=5), collaborative care (20%; n= 4), collaborative depression care (15%; n=3), MOMcare (15%; n=3), METRIHC (10%; n=2), IMPACT (5%; n=1), insight plus (5%; n=1) and intensive care management (5%; n=1). In the twenty included studies, social workers engaged in a range of practices from case management and referral to behavioral activation and brief psychosocial interventions.

Discussion: Social workers are engaged in IBH interventions in a variety of outpatient healthcare settings. Through integrated care interventions with social workers, patients experience better health outcomes, including depression symptom reduction. Despite the need for social workers on IBH teams, results show they are used in varied ways and not always at the full scope of their practice. Further, more details are needed to fully understand the scope of integration, such as the level of colocation, in these healthcare settings. Similarly, studies used a variety of terms to refer to behavioral health and physical health integration interventions, indicating a need for more clearly defined definitions among providers. Further investigation is needed to assess the efficacy of IBH interventions with social workers on patient outcomes.

Keywords: social work, integrated behavioral health, depression, community health, mental health

How to Cite: Milano N, Petruzzi L. Social Workers in Integrated Behavioral Health & Community Health: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Integrated Care. 2022;22(S3):48. DOI:
Published on 04 Nov 2022.


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