Integration of Behavioral Health Services in a Primary Care Clinic Serving Rural Appalachia: Reflections on a Clinical Experience

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In the past few decades, there has been a move toward integrating behavioral health and medical services. This can be particularly beneficial for rural residents, as integration can increase access to mental healthcare in areas where there are shortages of mental health providers. Southern Appalachia is characterized by isolated areas that have shortages of both mental health and medical providers. This article discusses the experiences of a clinical psychology doctoral student integrating behavioral health services in a primary care clinic within rural Southern Appalachia. The role of the behavioral health consultant is described, including representative services and development and implementation of a clinic-wide depression protocol. Additionally, barriers to integration and recommendations for future training and practice are provided.