‘A New Choice’: Carelon Opens First Brick-and-Mortar Clinic to Boost Behavioral Health Access, Address Whole-Person Health

Carelon, the health care services arm of Elevance Health (NYSE: ELV), has opened its first brick-and-mortar clinic.

At an organizational-level, the opening reflects Carelon’s commitment to boosting access to behavioral health services while advancing whole-person health, according to Glenn MacFarlane, who serves as president and CEO of Carelon Behavioral Health, formerly known as Beacon Health Options. More broadly, the clinic’s launch is also emblematic of how health care consumers are starting to seek out more in-person services again.

“The origin of [the clinic] was a conversation that I had with one of our customers in the area, where they said that there’s just not enough choice in access for in-person services, in-person docs,” MacFarlane told Behavioral Health Business. “One of the things we’ve noticed is that, as the pandemic gets further and further behind us, which is a good thing, the appetite for telehealth is slowly reversing itself.”


Boston-based Carelon Behavioral Health — a division within Carelon — serves nearly 60 million members across the U.S., with over 115,000 network providers and dozens of major employer clients. The organization provides a range of services, from stress and anxiety management, to diagnostic screening, medication management and more.

The new brick-and-mortar Carelon health center officially opened on April 5 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The health care hub – 4,760 square feet – integrates non-medical, physical and behavioral health services in a one-stop shop.

“We’re doing this in partnership with our CareMore partner, which is [also] part of Elevance,” MacFarlane said. “So we have Carelon Behavioral Health in one part of the clinic and the CareMore staff in the other part of the clinic.”


Some of the non-medical services offered at the Carelon clinic include family planning and marriage counseling, along with support for military veterans transitioning back into their families and communities following a lengthy deployment. On the physical side, the center provides everything expected from a full-service medical clinic.

When it comes to behavioral health care, Carelon’s clinic provides a combination of mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services.

Integrating all three aspects of health and wellness – non-medical, physical and behavioral – is a core part of Elevance and Carelon’s strategy, ​​MacFarlane explained.

“We are working on products as we speak that are really focused on the physical and the behavioral of a person,” he said.

Serving the community, expansion plans

Carelon picked Fayetteville for the clinic’s location, in part, because of its proximity to Fort Bragg. Pope Army Airfield is also located in the area.

By basing its first brick-and-mortar clinic there, Carelon is able to serve a number of different groups, including active and retired veterans. The clinic also accepts Medicaid and Medicare patients as well ​​MacFarlane said.

“It’s open, really, to anyone,” he added.

Currently, Carelon sees the clinic as a “one-of-a-kind facility,” and there are no plans for an immediate expansion into other markets. At least initially, ​​MacFarlane and his team will monitor the impact the clinic is having, then potentially reassess expansion plans down the road.

“This was a new choice for us – for an integrated, complete care facility. We are looking for this to play an important part in the health of that community,” ​​MacFarlane continued. “It’s not to say that there won’t be more, but right now, it’s just one of a kind. We want to see how this goes. And then we’ll make a decision at some future point in time.”

Other markets would likewise stand to benefit from an integrated clinic that provides non-medical, physical and behavioral health services. In 2022, 75% of rural counties across the country had no mental health providers, or fewer than 50 per 100,000 people, according to an ABC News analysis of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data.

“There are pockets of the country that are health care deserts,” MacFarlane said. “There’s just not enough behavioral health providers in the area.”

A return to in-person care

Telehealth use for behavioral health remains much higher than pre-pandemic levels. But signs indicate a gradual shift in preferences reverting back to in-person care.

In February of 2020, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, just 0.38% of medical claims were for telehealth services, according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. A year later, the number jumped to 5.9%, staying near 5% in February 2022 as well.

During this period, treatment for mental health conditions was typically the No. 1 reason for telehealth utilization.

In 2023, Americans’ usage of telehealth for their health care needs has started to dip, though it remains, overall, above pre-pandemic levels. This national trend mirrors what Carelon has seen, too, ​​MacFarlane said.

“I think everyone has really become very comfortable with telehealth,” he said. “I can just tell you before the pandemic, … we had maybe 1% or 2% telehealth usage from our network providers. It peaked in early 2021 at around 45%-46% usage. And again, it’s slowly reversing, but it’s still pretty much higher than it ever was.”

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