Navigation Services

Time to read: 2 minutes.

Navigation services can help providers deliver more integrated care to people with serious mental illness (SMI) and chronic or complex medical conditions. Such services include linking individuals (and their natural supports) with essential health and community services. Navigation coordinates care and services across siloed mental, behavioral, and physical health care delivery systems, leading to greater holistic and person-centered care. One way in which navigation services differ from traditional care coordination services is that navigators often interact with people face-to-face and monitor receipt of services. The combination of services coordinated by the navigator is fundamentally driven by an individual’s needs. 

Individuals with SMI have high rates of medical comorbidities and significantly shorter lifespans than those without SMI.1 Most of this disparity is related to higher rates of chronic health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other cardiorespiratory illnesses.2 

There is a need for a coordinated approach for individuals with SMI that recognizes the interconnectedness of mental and physical health.3 Through navigation services, behavioral health agencies and medical providers can expand their capacity to deliver care that is more integrated and reduces gaps in care for individuals with behavioral health needs. Models of integrated care that leverage one or more navigators offer the promise of improving the health and overall wellbeing of individuals with SMI, as well as assisting behavioral health organizations in their efforts to respond to new payment and care delivery models. Resources for Integrated Care has developed many products to help organizations and providers serving dually eligible individuals better understand navigation services and how to implement these services in their organizations.  

1 Colton, C.W. & Manderscheid, R.W. (2006). Congruencies in increased mortality rates, years of potential life lost, and causes of death among public mental health clients in eight states. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] Retrieved from:

2 Collins, C., Hewson, D. L., Munger, R., & Wade, T. (2010). Evolving models of behavioral health integration in primary care. Milbank Memorial fund. Retrieved from

3 Strine, T. W., Mokdad, A. H., Balluz, L. S., Gonzalez, O., Crider, R., Berry, J. T., & Kroenke, K. (2008). Depression and anxiety in the United States: Findings from the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Psychiatric Services, 59(12), 1383-1390. doi:10.1176/