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Tuerk PW, Wangelin B, Rauch SA, Dismuke CE, Yoder M, Myrick H, Eftekhari A, Acierno R. Health service utilization before and after evidence-based treatment for PTSD. Psychological Services. 2013 Nov 1; 10(4):401-9.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with functional impairment, co-occurring diagnoses, and increased health care utilization. Associated high demand for health care services is an important contributor to the large public-health cost of PTSD. Treatments incorporating exposure therapy are efficacious in ameliorating or eliminating PTSD symptoms. Accordingly, the Veterans Health Administration has made significant investments toward nationwide dissemination of a manualized exposure therapy protocol, prolonged exposure (PE). PE is effective with veterans; however, the relationship between PE and mental health service utilization is unknown. The current study investigates PE as it relates to actual tracked mental health service utilization in an urban VA medical center. A sample of 60 veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD was used to examine mental health service utilization in the 12-months prior to and 12-months after being offered PE. Hierarchical Linear Models and traditional repeated-measures ANOVA were used to estimate R - and d-type effect sizes for service utilization. Associated estimated cost saving are reported. PE was associated with large reductions in symptoms and diagnosis remission. Treatment was also associated with statistically significant, large reductions in mental health service utilization for veterans who completed treatment. Findings suggest that expanding access to PE can increase access to mental health services in general by decreasing ongoing demand for specialty care clinical services.