US federal government agencies are currently accepting applications for large grant awards to address behavioral health patient needs across the country. Your healthcare organization may be a good candidate for one of these awards! Even if you are not funded, the exercise of grant writing will help you imagine the possibilities of improving your organization and service. I will list the funding opportunities, explain the role of research, and share a few ideas.
New Funding Announcements
Integrated Substance Use Disorder Training Program (ISTP)
This is the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) most appropriate for professionals working in integrated care settings or seeking to integrate. Eligible applicants include teaching health centers or organizations with a proven record of success in training healthcare workers. The NOFO title includes the words “substance use”, but the description includes a broader scope (mental health, integrated primary care). I would love to see grantees use this award to prepare more advanced practice providers and nurses for integrated care practice. We also need more training videos and simulations that can be shared across the field. Project length: 12-months. Award ceiling: $515,000.
Medication-Assisted Treatment – Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction
If your organization wants to begin or expand existing MOUD services, then submit a application to this NOFO. This one is not really for training centers. It is all about increasing service access. The new DEA announcement that the X waiver is going away should make training and service expansion a little easier. If your state has a harm reduction advocacy group, then consider partnering with them for this award. Although integrated care is not the focus, I think this service expansion fits well with an existing, robust integrated care service. Project length: 5-years. Award ceiling: $750,000 per year.
Emergency Department Alternatives to Opioids Program
This NOFO goes out to all our colleagues integrated into hospitals and emergency rooms. I am excited to see how this funding expands access to screening and intervention for patients with OUD presenting at the hospital/ER. If your organization has behavioral health providers integrated into the ER, this award could help boost your services, especially problem identification. Project length: 3-years. Award ceiling: $500,000 per year.
State Pilot Program for Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women
This is a big one. I have seen several funding opportunities come out recently for pregnant and postpartum women. There are significant service gaps and misunderstandings for this population. If your organization offers women’s health services, please consider submitting. Note this NOFO is for state agencies. Project length: 3-years. Award ceiling: $900,000 per year.
Funding for Research?
The announcements I just shared are designed for workforce development and/or service expansion. HRSA and SAMHSA do not fund research, only project evaluation. Grantees evaluate the impact of their project efforts, but the goal is not to advance scientific knowledge using rigorous research methods. The goal is to immediately impact public health and healthcare systems.
My institution has a few active grant awards from HRSA and SAMHSA. One award is allowing us to offer stipends to graduate social work students for completing their internship at an integrated medical site. We are using the funds to create new learning content and better understand what training students need. Another award is allowing us to create a coding scale for measuring SBIRT fidelity, while another award is being used to identify the location of integrated primary care sites across Arizona.
Research Questions for the Field
Grantees can still answer important questions in the field using scientific approaches, like the following:
- How much training do medical clinicians need to effectively practice integrated behavioral healthcare?
- What are the odds a patient will return for treatment after a same-day referral (warm handoff)? What factors increase those odds?
- Is regular behavioral health screening more effective than screening in response to the presenting problem?
- Is universal behavioral health screening more effective than targeted screening?
- What is the return on investment for adding an additional behavioral health consultant?
- What is the return on investment for starting or expanding telehealth services for behavioral health?
If you are interested in advancing the field of integrated care, then consider applying! Even though you are not conducting a rigorous experimental trial, your project can still generate new knowledge. You can use implementation research methods to better understand the factors that make integrated care sustainable. You can use quality improvement techniques to identify quick solutions for making integrated care services more effective or efficient. You can also find a comparison group within your organization to establish causality by isolating the effect of your project.
One last idea: we need a lot more financial knowledge on integrated care. Consider adding a BCR or ROI analysis to your project evaluation and publishing your results. We do not know enough about the monetary value of integrated care.
We need government agencies to continue investing in integrated care. Funding helps training centers establish their workforce programs and prepare future clinicians and managers. Funding also helps address the ever present health disparities that exist because of unmet behavioral health and socioeconomic needs. Uncle Sam:
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