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Public implementation of a web-based program for veterans with risky alcohol use and PTSD: A RE-AIM evaluation of VetChange.

Enggasser JL, Livingston NA, Ameral V, Brief DJ, Rubin A, Helmuth E, Roy M, Solhan M, Litwack S, Rosenbloom D, Keane TM. Public implementation of a web-based program for veterans with risky alcohol use and PTSD: A RE-AIM evaluation of VetChange. Journal of substance abuse treatment. 2021 Mar 1; 122:108242.

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BACKGROUND: Evidence-based web and mobile interventions are available for a range of mental health concerns. Little is known about how self-administered web interventions are used outside of controlled research trials, and there is a critical need to empirically examine real-world public implementation of such programs. To this end, the aim of the current study was to evaluate and describe outcomes of a nationwide public implementation of VetChange, a self-administered web intervention for veterans with problematic alcohol use and symptoms of PTSD. METHOD: The study used the RE-AIM framework to organize outcomes along five key dimensions: reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and maintenance. This naturalistic observation study included program use information for all who registered an account with VetChange during the 2-year study period and who self-identified as a returning veteran. We collected program use data automatically via normal website operation; a subset of program users provided additional self-report outcome data. The study used linear multilevel mixed modeling to evaluate changes in alcohol use and PTSD symptoms over a six-month postregistration period. RESULTS: VetChange successfully reached a large, geographically diverse sample of returning veterans with risky drinking and PTSD symptoms. Despite variable, overall modest, rates of intervention use over time, registered users demonstrated significant improvements in drinking, PTSD, and quality of life, and participants maintained these outcomes at a six-month follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: Given the observed low cost per acquisition, positive clinical outcomes, and the potential to produce long-term cost savings through reduced health care burden associated with chronic alcohol use disorder and PTSD, this study demonstrates how web-based interventions can provide public health benefits and reduce long-term health care costs.

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