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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

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Behavioral Health


Across Indian Country, the high occurrence of substance use disorders, mental health disorders, suicide, violence, and behavior-related chronic diseases is well documented. Each of these serious behavioral health issues has a profound impact on the health of individuals, families, and communities, both on and off reservations.

Across the Indian Health Care System, behavioral health initiatives are now focused on integrating behavioral health into primary care across the Indian Health Care System. By addressing the intersections between substance abuse, mental health, suicide, violence, and preventable chronic health conditions, behavioral health is taking an integrated and holistic approach to align with individual Tribes' traditional healing practices and commitment to restoring the balance of the mind, body, and spirit. The IHS Behavioral Health Program developed a Briefing Book [PDF - 2.7 MB] to document efforts to address behavioral health issues on a local, regional and national basis.

In 2005, IHS formalized a Behavioral Health Initiative that holistically addresses the health, wellness, strength, and resilience of AI/AN communities. The major focus areas for the IHS behavioral health program are substance use disorders, mental health disorders, violence prevention, and increasing the integration of behavioral health into primary care.

Substance Use Disorders

The Substance Abuse Program covers the entire spectrum of alcohol and substance use disorder treatment from awareness and identification to recovery. It includes alcohol and substance abuse prevention, education services, and treatment in rural and urban settings.

Mental Health Disorders

The Mental Health program is a community-based clinical and preventive service program that provides access to a wide variety of mental health services, including outpatient mental health counseling, dual-diagnosis services (for co-occurring mental health and substance abuse diagnoses), mental health crisis response and triage, suicide prevention/intervention/assessment, case management, community-based prevention programming, and outreach and health education activities.

Violence Response

The Violence Response program area encompasses awareness, intervention, prevention, and treatment for domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, and elder maltreatment. It also promotes safety measures in the broader community, such as awareness, prevention, bystander response, and bullying prevention. To help victims of violence, the IHS provides direct services, advocacy, interagency consultation, and collaboration with other Federal agencies in a coordinated response to provide health care services to AI/AN children, families, and communities.

Behavioral Health Integration

IHS supports changing the paradigm of behavioral health services from being specialty- and disease- focused to being part of an integrated healthcare system. This offers new opportunities for interventions that can identify high-risk individuals before their behaviors become more severe.

Telebehavioral Health is a service delivery method that broadens the availability of access to quality care across all behavioral health program areas. Using video conferencing technology, telebehavioral health services allow real-time visits with a behavioral health specialist in another location who can assist in the evaluation, diagnosis, management, and treatment of health problems.