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Primary Care-Mental Health Integration in the Veterans Affairs Health System: Program Characteristics and Performance.

Cornwell BL, Brockmann LM, Lasky EC, Mach J, McCarthy JF. Primary Care-Mental Health Integration in the Veterans Affairs Health System: Program Characteristics and Performance. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2018 Jun 1; 69(6):696-702.

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OBJECTIVES: The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has achieved substantial national implementation of primary care-mental health integration (PC-MHI) services. However, little is known regarding program characteristics, variation in characteristics across settings, or associations between program fidelity and performance. This study identified core elements of PC-MHI services and evaluated their associations with program characteristics and performance. METHODS: A principal-components analysis (PCA) of reports from 349 sites identified factors associated with PC-MHI fidelity. Analyses assessed the correlation among factors and between each factor and facility type (medical center or community-based outpatient clinic), primary care population size, and performance indicators (receipt of PC-MHI services, same-day access to mental health and primary care services, and extended duration of services). RESULTS: PCA identified seven factors: core implementation, care management (CM) assessments and supervision, CM supervision receipt, colocated collaborative care (CCC) by prescribing providers, CCC by behavioral health providers, participation in patient aligned care teams (PACTs) for special populations, and treatment of complex mental health conditions. Sites serving larger populations had greater core implementation scores. Medical centers and sites serving larger populations had greater scores for CCC by prescribing providers, CM assessments and supervision, and participation in PACTs. Greater core implementation scores were associated with greater same-day access. Sites with greater scores for CM assessments and supervision had lower scores for treatment of complex conditions. CONCLUSIONS: Outpatient clinics and sites serving smaller populations experienced challenges in integrated care implementation. To enhance same-day access, VHA should continue to prioritize PC-MHI implementation. Providing brief, problem-focused care may enhance CM implementation.

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