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Pre-Implementation Strategies to Adapt and Implement a Veteran Peer Coaching Intervention to Improve Mental Health Treatment Engagement Among Rural Veterans.

Koenig CJ, Abraham T, Zamora KA, Hill C, Kelly PA, Uddo M, Hamilton M, Pyne JM, Seal KH. Pre-Implementation Strategies to Adapt and Implement a Veteran Peer Coaching Intervention to Improve Mental Health Treatment Engagement Among Rural Veterans. The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association. 2016 Sep 1; 32(4):418-428.

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PURPOSE: Telephone motivational coaching has been shown to increase urban veteran mental health treatment initiation. However, no studies have tested telephone motivational coaching delivered by veteran peers to facilitate mental health treatment initiation and engagement. This study describes pre-implementation strategies with 8 Veterans Affairs (VA) community-based outpatient clinics in the West and Mid-South United States to adapt and implement a multisite pragmatic randomized controlled trial of telephone peer motivational coaching for rural veterans. METHODS: We used 2 pre-implementation strategies, Formative Evaluation (FE) research and Evidence-Based Quality Improvement (EBQI) meetings to adapt the intervention to stakeholders' needs and cultural contexts. FE data were qualitative, semi-structured interviews with rural veterans and VA clinic staff. Results were rapidly analyzed and presented to stakeholders during EBQI meetings to optimize the intervention implementation. FINDINGS: FE research results showed that VA clinic providers felt overwhelmed by veterans' mental health needs and acknowledged limited mental health services at VA clinics. Rural veteran interviews indicated geographical, logistical, and cultural barriers to VA mental health treatment initiation and a preference for self-care to cope with mental health symptoms. EBQI meetings resulted in several intervention adaptations, including veteran study recruitment, peer veteran coach training, and an expanded definition of mental health care outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: As the VA moves to cultivate community partnerships in order to personalize and expand access to care for rural veterans, pre-implementation processes with engaged stakeholders, such as those described here, can help guide other researchers and clinicians to achieve proactive and veteran-centered health care services.

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