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Provider perceptions and use of mental health services in the Veterans Health Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cully JA, Fischer EP, Gonzalez R, Williams JS, Sansgiry S, Zeno D, Mittal D, Kuo I. Provider perceptions and use of mental health services in the Veterans Health Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological Services. 2023 Jun 1;

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The COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered the way in which health care is delivered, challenging providers, and systems of care to innovate to maintain access to services. This article describes the delivery of mental health services during the pandemic in two Veterans Health Administration (VHA) regions that include 15 hospitals and over 100 outpatient facilities in the southern United States. Data were derived from (a) a survey of provider perspectives ( = 1,175) on delivering mental health care prior to and during the pandemic and (b) VHA administrative data on mental health service delivery. Providers reported that access, quality, and timeliness of services remained high during the pandemic; indicated increased use of telehealth services; and reported challenges in delivering evidence-based psychotherapies (EBPs) and measurement-based care (MBC). Administrative data indicated no drop in the number of Veterans receiving mental health care during the pandemic but showed fewer total visits relative to prepandemic levels and confirmed a dramatic increase in telehealth services during the first 6 months of the pandemic (+ 459% telephone and + 202% video) and a decrease in use of EBPs (-28%) and MBC (-31%). Data at 12 months showed a continued increase in video services (+ 357%) and modest improvement in EBP and MBC use. Rapid shifts in the use of telehealth services, coupled with organizational efforts, ensured that Veterans continued to have access to mental health services during the pandemic. Although mental health services remained accessible, challenges existed in the delivery of specialized mental health services, including EBPs and MBC. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

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