Office of Research & Development

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'Same day' primary and mental health care helps continuity

When VA patients are seen by a mental health counselor on the same day they initiate primary care, they are twice as likely to have a follow-up mental health visit within 90 days, compared with patients who receive no same-day mental health services.

That's the main finding from a study by VA researchers based in Ann Arbor. They examined the records of more than 9,000 patients who received VA care for the first time in 2009. The patients all visited VA facilities with clinics that combine primary and mental health care. The model has been used at growing numbers of VA sites in recent years as part of an effort to boost access to mental health care, especially for returning Veterans.

Of the 9,000 or so patients included in the database study, 7 percent, or 635 Veterans, received some type of mental health care at the integrated clinic on the day of their primary care visit. Among those 635 Veterans, 74 percent had a follow-up mental health visit within 90 days. Among the remaining 93 percent whose initial primary care visit did not include any mental health, only about 45 percent had a follow-up mental health visit within 90 days.

The researchers say the results add to the evidence supporting integrated care as a way to promote continuity of care for mental health.

(General Hospital Psychiatry, online Oct. 9, 2012)


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