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Behavioral Health Lab (BHL)

Program Mission

The mission of the Philadelphia Behavioral Health Lab is to work collaboratively with primary care providers to help manage the behavioral health needs of Veterans seen in primary care and to provide decision support including triage to specialty mental health/substance misuse services.

The Behavioral Health Laboratory (BHL) was established at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center and Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) in 2003 in order to improve the engagement of primary care (PC) providers and their patients in evidence-based mental health care on a population level. The BHL employs an interdisciplinary team-based model of care consisting of psychology technicians, clinicians (nurses, social workers, psychologists), and a supervising psychiatrist who work collaboratively within the primary care teams. The team-based model allows for greater efficiency and results in services being readily available to the large and diverse population of Veterans in the Philadelphia region. Since its inception, the Philadelphia BHL has improved outcomes for depression, anxiety, and alcohol misuse in the primary care setting, reduced wait times for mental health and substance abuse specialty care programs, and increased engagement rates in specialty care. The BHL is founded in the now substantial evidence base that measurement based care improves depression outcomes in a primary care population. 

To effectively provide this model of care, the BHL:

Promotes Veteran Centered Care

  • Provides Veteran centered evaluation and treatment for primary care Veterans
  • Promotes self-management and Veteran treatment preferences
  • Honors Veteran preference in the mode of care delivery, offering care face to face, by telephone or via video tele-conferencing (web cam)

Promotes Measurement Based Care

  • Allows for efficient and timely evaluation and triage of positive mental health screens (depression, PTSD, alcohol misuse)
  • Utilizes an informatics tool, the BHL software, to assist in the delivery of measurement based care, panel management, and program quality assurance/improvement

Promotes Collaboration

  • Provides collaborative assistance to PC providers to help manage mild to moderate cases (depression, anxiety, at-risk drinking) within primary care
  • Keeps the process simple for primary care providers by allowing multiple methods of case finding (i.e. screening, direct referral, pharmacy-based referrals for new antidepressants, Veterans self-referral, etc.) and by multiple means of referral (warm hand off via face to face or telephone, consult based, walk-ins).
  • Collaborates closely with the Health Behavior Coordinator, Health Promotion Disease Prevention Manager, and Pain Psychologist
  • Facilitates specialty care referral for Veterans with complex MH problems


David Oslin, M.D.
Director, VISN 4 MIRECC
Philadelphia VAMC