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Does screening for PTSD lead to VA mental health care? Identifying the spectrum of initial VA screening actions.

Bovin MJ, Resnik J, Linsky AM, Stolzmann K, Mull HJ, Schnurr PP, Post EP, Pleasants EA, Miller CJ. Does screening for PTSD lead to VA mental health care? Identifying the spectrum of initial VA screening actions. Psychological Services. 2023 Aug 1; 20(3):525-532.

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Despite the active posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) screening program in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care clinics and the availability of empirically supported treatments for PTSD at VA, many veterans for whom screening suggests treatment may be indicated do not gain access to VA-based mental health care. To determine where we may be losing veterans to follow-up, we need to begin by identifying the initial action taken in response to a positive PTSD screen in primary care. Using VA administrative data and chart review, we identified the spectrum of initial actions taken after veterans screened positive for PTSD in VA primary care clinics nationwide between October 2017 and September 2018 ( = 41,570). We collapsed actions into those that could lead to VA-based mental health care (e.g., consult placed to a VA mental health clinic) versus not (e.g., veteran declined care), and then examined the association between these categories of actions and contextual- and individual-level variables. More than 61% of veterans with positive PTSD screens had evidence that an initial action toward VA-based mental health care was taken. Urban-dwelling and female veterans were significantly more likely to have evidence of these initial actions, whereas White and Vietnam-era veterans were significantly less likely to have this evidence. Our findings suggest that most veterans screening positive for PTSD in VA primary care clinics have evidence of initial actions taken toward VA-based mental health care; however, a substantial minority do not, making them unlikely to receive follow-up care. Findings highlight the potential benefit of targeted primary care-based access interventions. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

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