Collaborative Care is a model of care whereby trained mental health specialists support care managers and primary care providers. The ultimate goal of this model is to deliver evidence-based mental health care to a specific population.

Research has suggested that implementing Collaborative Care improves access to mental health care, clinical outcomes and cost effectiveness of care. Collaborative Care can effectively reduce the population burden of mental illness.

It is for these reasons that Collaborative Care is a key component of provincial mental health and addiction strategies, and Canada’s vision for primary care.

What are some of the issues with how Collaborative Care is used today?

Collaborative Care models in primary care settings are variable across Canada. The models that have been implemented do not necessarily align with evidence-based or best practices, or have been implemented infrequently and inconsistently without being evaluated.

There has been confusion about what the most important parts and functions of Collaborative Care are, and to which clinical contexts they apply. For example, less well-studied models of Collaborative Care have been implemented that do not employ population registries, care management, or other evaluated components of the chronic care model. This has led to a knowledge-to-practice gap regarding the comparative effectiveness of the different Collaborative Care practices that teams and organizations may use to achieve desired outcomes.

Organizational, financial, and attitudinal barriers may also hinder the implementation of Collaborative Care. Poor implementation of Collaborative Care can contribute to poor integration of physical and mental health care, variations in clinical care, non-guideline-based pharmacotherapy, delayed follow up after treatments, treatment drop-outs and less improvement in client symptoms.