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Impact of Primary Care-Mental Health Care Integration on Mental Health Care Engagement Across Racial and Ethnic Groups.

Woodward EN, Cornwell BL, Wray LO, Pomerantz AS, Kirchner JE, McCarthy JF, Kearney LK. Impact of Primary Care-Mental Health Care Integration on Mental Health Care Engagement Across Racial and Ethnic Groups. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2024 Feb 7; appips20220631.

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OBJECTIVE: Receiving mental health services as part of primary care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) might increase engagement in specialty mental health care. The authors reexamined the association between primary care-mental health integration (PCMHI) and continued engagement in specialty mental health care for VHA patients and assessed differences by race and ethnicity. METHODS: The study included 437,051 primary care patients with a first in-person specialty mental health encounter in 2015-2016 (no specialty mental health encounters in prior 12 months), including 46,417 patients with new PCMHI encounters in the year before the first specialty mental health encounter. Multivariable logistic regression assessed odds of follow-up specialty mental health care within 3 months of the first specialty mental health encounter. The dependent variable was care engagement (attending a second specialty mental health appointment); independent variables were whether patients were seen by PCMHI on the same day as the primary care appointment ("same-day access"), the time between PCMHI and first specialty mental health appointments, and race and ethnicity. RESULTS: PCMHI was associated with increased engagement in specialty mental health care for all patients, with a greater likelihood of engagement among non-Hispanic White patients. Same-day access to PCMHI was positively associated with care engagement, with no significant differences by race or ethnicity. PCMHI care within 3 months before a first specialty mental health encounter was associated with greater care engagement. CONCLUSIONS: PCMHI, especially same-day access to PCMHI care, may boost engagement in mental health care, although the study design precluded conclusions regarding causal relationships.

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