August 17, 2023

Behavioral health tools for primary care providers

Identify and treat patients with behavioral health conditions and substance use disorders

Primary care providers (PCPs) play an important role in identifying and treating patients with mental health and substance use disorders. Here are some tools and resources you can use as you care for these patients.

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You can use screening tools to identify a patient with substance use disorder. Online screening tools include the following:

Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and medication for alcohol use disorder (MAUD) are evidence-based treatments that use FDA-approved medications in combination with therapy. These treatments are formerly known as medication assisted treatment (MAT). The benefits of these treatments may include reduced cravings, increased periods of abstinence and improved clinical outcomes. Patients who receive MOUD/MAUD are 50% more likely to remain sober, compared to those who receive detoxification or psychosocial treatment alone.

MOUD/MAUD medications include:

  • Naltrexone (oral and injectable)
  • Buprenorphine (oral, injectable and implant)
  • Methadone (oral)

Find more information about MOUD/MAUD or go to Frequently Asked Questions.

Take the Assessing and Addressing Alcohol and Cannabis Misuse in Medical Practice course.

PCPs also play an important role in treating children and adolescent patients. When the treatment plan includes antipsychotic medication, it is important to ensure necessary labs are completed. Antipsychotic medications prescribed for child or adolescent patients can have adverse effects on their metabolism. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA®) recommends completing these tests for children and adolescents after an initial prescription of antipsychotic medication:

  • At least 1 test for blood glucose or HbA1c
  • At least 1 test for LDL-C or cholesterol

Consider annual monitoring of fasting glucose/HbA1c and cholesterol/LDL-C tests.

PCPs can play an important role in diagnosing and treating behavioral health conditions. UnitedHealthcare, Optum Behavioral Health and OptumHealth™ Education offer a 3-part online series covering some behavioral health issues seen in primary care settings. The topics include depression and follow-up after higher levels of care, substance use disorders in primary care, and behavioral health treatment for children and adolescents.

Access the training series.

Earn 1.00 continuing medical education/nursing continuing professional development credit for each session completed. There are no fees for participating in or receiving credit for these courses.

Coordination of care is important for patients, especially those facing severe and persistent mental health and/or substance use conditions.

Within a week of your patient’s initial appointment, and each year after that, you can coordinate care by providing the member’s other health care professionals with:

  • A summary of the patient’s assessment and treatment plan recommendations
  • Your latest diagnosis (medical and behavioral)
  • All the medications you’ve prescribed (brand or generic name, strength and dosage)
  • Your contact information and the best time to reach you by phone, if needed

The UnitedHealthcare behavioral health resources page includes information about:

  • Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
  • Screening tools
  • Depression
  • Alcohol and substance misuse
  • Substance use screeners
  • Behavioral health support
  • Behavioral health referrals

Additional online resources

Prevention Center
Behavioral health toolkit
Behavioral health care professional directory
Live and Work Well – Patient education information
Opioid Use Disorder Quick Reference Guide for Clinicians
Provider Express – Behavioral health claims, eligibility and benefits, appeals, clinical tools and initiatives


Visit our Contact Us page for more information, call the Substance Use Disorder Helpline at 855-780-5955 or find additional behavioral health support, such as in-network behavioral health professional and patient education information.

HEDIS® is a registered trademark of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).
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