As Israel transitions from government-managed mental health care to HMO management of these services, integrating mental health with primary care, a three-way international collaboration is helping develop guidelines for best practices.

“It was a tremendous experience for the students – I can’t emphasize this enough!”

During her post doc years at MIT, Wiljeana Glover found herself working together on a health care project with Eitan Naveh, a faculty member on sabbatical from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. They engaged in a series of informal discussions about pending health care reform in Israel – and discovered a strong shared interest.

“The Israeli Government approved a reform in mental health services,” explains Glover, who is now an Assistant Professor in the Technology, Operations, and Information Management Division at Babson College. “The reform would transfer full responsibility for mental health services from the Ministry of Health to Israel’s four nonprofit health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Eitan has a connection at one of the HMOs, Clalit Health Services, and we were all interested in how this transition would work. We wanted to research the situation and provide recommendations to make the transfer and integration of services more successful.”

The reform was approved on May 1, 2012, and Naveh, Glover, and their partner at Clalit collaborated on a proposal for a global seed fund grant from MISTI to get their Integrated Care for Mental Health in Israel project off the ground.

“MISTI funding was perfect to get us started,” says Glover, who first traveled to Israel through a MISTI student grant. “Three MIT undergraduate students were able to spend time in Israel conducting research between June 2013 and March 2014, and a Technion Ph.D. student was able to visit us here, where we have been analyzing the research and drafting a paper to publish our findings. It was a tremendous experience for the students – I can’t emphasize this enough!”

By examining what had happened in Israel when primary care providers were made responsible for providing diabetes services, the project team hoped to identify best practices that could be applied to the transfer of mental health services. “We interviewed providers,” Glover says, “and learned that the integration of mental health services would be more complicated than the integration of diabetes services.

“For people who formerly had to travel a long distance for mental health care, it will be good to have those services integrated at a more accessible primary care location. But integration also means that your mental health treatment becomes part of your medical record. For children who have mental health issues, this might affect them later in life if they want to join the military or seek a high-profile job. And the physical integration of primary care and mental health services at one location, with a shared waiting room for example, may create privacy issues – especially for religious populations where there is a stigma attached to mental health services.”

An important next step for the project will be to interview patients to see if they confirm the providers’ views. “One of the best things about the MISTI funding,” notes Glover, “is that it has helped build a great relationship between myself, Eitan, and the HMO in Israel. We will definitely go forward together, and I expect us to explore other research topics as well. Already, we are full of ideas. The funding established a foundation for countless future collaborations.”

John Carroll, the Principal Investigator of the seed fund project, writes, “I strongly value the opportunity to link international scholars and investigate problems that are of global importance.  [Glover and Naveh] learned about the nitty-gritty of organizing and delivering care, were exposed to qualitative research methods, and had a cross-cultural learning experience, all due to MISTI.” He looks forward to further collaboration between MIT and Technion. 

  • Israel
  • Seed Fund
  • Management