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Pomerantz AS, Kearney LK, Wray LO, Post EP, McCarthy JF. Mental health services in the medical home in the Department of Veterans Affairs: factors for successful integration. Psychological Services. 2014 Aug 1; 11(3):243-53.
Since the early 1990s, primary care has been described as the de facto mental health care system in the United States. Most individuals with mental health concerns present in primary care, but the majority are either not identified or do not receive evidence-based services or guideline concordant care. Despite 20 years of research supporting the integration of mental health services into primary care, the translation of this evidence into real-world settings remains limited. The growing impetus to build comprehensive health care systems that provide care for a defined population has recently spurred interest in providing mental health care within primary care. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began to systematically incorporate psychological and other mental health services into primary care in 2007. National evaluation and local program data reviewed here have demonstrated that the initiative has already improved the identification and treatment of mental health disorders in the primary care population, increased the likelihood of receiving guideline concordant care, and enhanced treatment engagement for patients referred into specialty mental health services. These results provide support for expectations that integrated care enhances access to high-quality mental health care. This article summarizes critical factors for success identified in the VA integrated care rollout. These factors are applicable for other health care organizations that seek to improve mental health services delivery.