What do we mean by "integrating behavioral health and primary care"?

In this emerging field, it is important to develop shared language that enables communication and collaboration across sites, disciplines, and time.

Lexicon for Behavioral Health and Primary Care Integration

The Lexicon for Behavioral Health and Primary Care Integration (Lexicon) is a set of concepts and definitions developed by experts to provide a practical definition of behavioral health integration as implemented in practice settings. This consensus Lexicon enables clear communication and action among clinicians, care systems, health plans, payers, researchers, policymakers, business modelers, and patients working for effective, widespread implementation on a meaningful scale.

The Lexicon opens with an executive summary that gives the reader an overview of what follows. The executive summary is also available separately.

Download the LexiconLexiconDownload the Executive SummaryExecutive Summary


The following products offer a simpler, plain language introduction to the concepts in the Lexicon.

The three separate products include:

  • Snapshot of an Integrated Practice : Introduces the key elements and features of an integrated behavioral health and primary care practice
  • An Overview of Integrated Behavioral Health and Primary Care : Helps professionals understand the what, who, and why of integrated behavioral health, and includes the Lexicon’s definition of integrated behavioral health
  • Terms to Know : Provides brief definitions of terms related to the goals for quality care, arrangements for integrated behavioral health clinicians, and related types and structures for care 

Journey Toward a Lexicon

The original version of the Academy’s Lexicon was developed in 2009 through an AHRQ small conference grant to create A National Agenda for Research in Collaborative Care (PDF - 691.43 KB). While planning the meeting, experts used the same words to refer to different concepts or practices and struggled to communicate effectively.

After initially developing a shared understanding at the meeting, participants agreed that the Lexicon was an important, even critical, advancement for the field but that it needed further refinement. To that end, AHRQ funded an R-13 grant that enabled C.J. Peek  and the University of Minnesota to collaborate with the Academy’s National Integration Advisory Council (NIAC) to further enhance the Lexicon. The current Lexicon is the result of that effort.

Journey Toward a Lexicon