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Understanding How Contingency Staffing Programs Can Support Mental Health Services in the Veterans Health Administration.

Jaske E, Wheat CL, Rubenstein LV, Leung L, Curtis I, Wahlberg L, Felker B. Understanding How Contingency Staffing Programs Can Support Mental Health Services in the Veterans Health Administration. Telemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association. 2024 Apr 2.

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Beginning in 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prioritized improving access to care nationally to deliver virtual care and implemented 18 regionally based Clinical Resource Hubs (CRHs) to meet this priority. This observational study describes the quantity and types of care delivered by CRH Mental Health teams, and the professions of those hired to deliver it. A retrospective cohort study, based on national VA CRH mental health care utilization data and CRH staffing data for CRH's first 3 years, was conducted. CRH Mental Health teams primarily used Telemental Health (TMH) to provide care (98.1% of all CRH MH encounters). The most common disorders treated included depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders. The amount of care delivered overtime steadily increased as did the racial and ethnic diversity of Veterans served. Psychologists accounted for the largest share of CRH staffing, followed by psychiatrists. CRH TMH delivered from a regional hub appears to be a feasible and acceptable visit modality, based on the continuously increasing CRH TMH visit rates. Our results showed that CRH TMH was predominantly used to address common mental health diagnoses, rather than serious mental illnesses. Traditionally marginalized patient populations increased over the 3-year window, suggesting that CRH TMH resources were accessible to many of these patients. Future research should assess barriers and facilitators for accessing CRH TMH, especially for difficult-to-service patient populations, and should consider whether similar results to ours occur when regional TMH is delivered to non-VA patient populations.

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