CCISC Overview

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The Comprehensive Continuous Integrated System of Care or CCISC is an evidence-based model (Minkoff & Cline, 2004, 2005) that has been identified by SAMHSA as a “best practice” for system design, and has been used in dozens of local, regional, state/provincial systems of care internationally, including over 35 states in the U.S., 5 Canadian provinces, and several states in Australia. CCISC is designed to create processes for systems to engage in to produce vision-driven transformation–a customer-oriented quality improvement approach to change.

Key Elements (CCISC)

  1. The system must be built to fulfill the biggest possible vision of meeting the needs and hopes of its customers: both the individuals and families who are seeking help, and the system partners (e.g., criminal justice, child welfare, juvenile justice, homeless services, public health, etc.) that share the responsibility to respond. The emphasis always begins with those individuals and families who the system is currently not well designed to serve (people with co-occurring issues, people with cultural diversity, people in complex crisis, etc.)
  2. The whole system must be organized into a horizontal and vertical continuous quality improvement partnership, in which all programs are responsible for their own data-driven quality improvement activities targeting the common vision that all programs become person/family-centered, recovery/resiliency-oriented, trauma-informed, complexity capable (that is, organized to routinely integrate services for individuals and families with multiple complex issues and conditions), and culturally/linguistically competent. In addition, all the major processes and subsystems (e.g., crisis response) must be reworked within this quality improvement partnership to be better matched to what people need.
  3. The whole process is designed to implement a wide array of best practices and interventions into all the core processes of the system at an adequate level of detail to ensure fidelity and achieve associated outcomes. This is not about simply “funding special programs,” but rather about defining what works, and making sure, within the systemic continuous quality improvement (CQI) practice improvement/workforce development framework, that what works is routinely provided in all settings.
  4. The whole process is data driven. Each CQI component, whether at the program level, the subsystem level, or the overall system level, is driven by commitment to measurable progress toward quantifiable objectives.
  5. The whole process is built within existing resources. All systems need more resources, but it is critical to challenge ourselves to use the resources we have as wisely as possible before acquiring more. In most behavioral health systems, as noted by the IOM, poor system design produces inefficient and ineffective results, and then more resources are invested to work around the poorly designed system. The goal of CCISC is to create processes to move beyond that over time.
  6. The whole process is built with the assumption that every piece of practice and process improvement needs to be anchored firmly into the supporting operational administrative structure and fiscal/regulatory compliance framework. This includes not only clinical instructions, but also resource and billing instructions, quality and data instructions, paperwork and documentation requirements, and so on. The fiscal/regulatory compliance framework can be the biggest supporter of quality-driven change, if the same rigidity that may hold ineffective processes in place is “rewired” to hold improved clinical processes in place that are consistent with the overall values and mission of the systems. Many systems think that this cannot occur, and therefore stop trying. CCISC challenges systems to discover the ways that financial integrity and value-driven practice can be anchored into place simultaneously.

The whole CCISC process begins with a big vision of change and puts in place a series of change processes that proceed in an incremental, stepwise fashion over time. However, because the design of the process is to create organized accountability for change at every level of the system concurrently, thereby increasing the total activation and personal responsibility for improvement by both customers and staff (both front-line and managers), even though each part of the system may only take small steps, the whole system starts to make fundamental changes in its approach to doing business. Although a transformation process is by design “continuous improvement” and will involve significant changes over several years, the shift to implementation of a quality-driven framework process can occur in a relatively short time frame (e.g., 6-12 months).

This model is based on the following eight clinical consensus best practice principles (Minkoff and Cline, 2004, 2005) which espouse an integrated recovery philosophy that makes sense from the perspective of both the mental health system and the substance disorder treatment system.


Principle 1. Co-occurring issues and conditions are an expectation, not an exception.

This expectation must be included in every aspect of system planning, program design, clinical policy and procedure, and clinical competency, as well as incorporated in a welcoming manner in every clinical contact, to promote access to care and accurate screening and identification of individuals and families with multiple co-occurring issues.

Principle 2. The foundation of a recovery partnership is an empathic, hopeful, integrated, strength-based relationship.

Within this partnership, integrated longitudinal strength-based assessment, intervention, support, and continuity of care promote step-by-step community-based learning for each issue or condition.

Principle 3. All people with co-occurring conditions are not the same, so different parts of the system have responsibility to provide co-occurring-capable services for different populations.

Assignment of responsibility for provision of such relationships can be determined using the four-quadrant national consensus model for system-level planning, based on high and low severity of the psychiatric and substance disorder.

Principle 4. When co-occurring issues and conditions are present, each issue or condition is considered to be primary.

The best-practice intervention is integrated dual or multiple primary treatment, in which each condition or issue receives appropriately-matched intervention at the same time.

Principle 5. Recovery involves moving through stages of change and phases of recovery for each co-occurring condition or issue.

Mental illness and substance dependence (as well as other conditions, such as medical disorders, trauma, and homelessness) are examples of chronic biopsychosocial conditions that can be understood using a disease and recovery (or condition and recovery) model. Each condition has parallel phases of recovery (acute stabilization, engagement and motivational enhancement, prolonged stabilization and relapse prevention, rehabilitation and growth) and stages of change. For each condition or issue, interventions and outcomes must be matched to stage of change and phase of recovery.

Principle 6. Progress occurs through adequately supported, adequately rewarded skill-based learning for each co-occurring condition or issue.

For each co-occurring condition or issue, treatment involves getting an accurate set of recommendations for that issue, and then learning the skills (self-management skills and skills for accessing professional, peer, or family support) in order to follow those recommendations successfully over time. In order to promote learning, the right balance of care or support with contingencies and expectations must be in place for each condition, and contingencies must be applied with recognition that reward is much more effective in promoting learning than negative consequences.

Principle 7. Recovery plans, interventions, and outcomes must be individualized. Consequently, there is no one correct dual-diagnosis program or intervention for everyone.

For each individual or family, integrated treatment interventions and outcomes must be individualized according to their hopeful goals; their specific diagnoses, conditions, or issues; and the phase of recovery, stage of change, strengths, skills, and available contingencies for each condition.

Principle 8. CCISC is designed so that all policies, procedures, practices, programs, and clinicians become welcoming, recovery- or resiliency-oriented, and co-occurring-capable.

Each program has a different job, and programs partner to help each other succeed with their own complex populations. The goal is that each individual or family is routinely welcomed into empathic, hopeful, integrated relationships, in which each co-occurring issue or condition is identified, and engaged in a continuing process of adequately supported, adequately rewarded, strength-based, stage-matched, skill-based, community-based learning for each condition, in order to help the individual or family make progress toward achieving their recovery goals.

Co-occurring Capability Resources

Resources for agencies/programs, clinicians, and system implementation teams developing co-occurring capability or competency can be found here. The steps are based on the principles above, and can be initiated by anyone to organize progress within the scope of mission, job category, and resources.