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Collaborative care for mental health

July 3, 2019

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Collaborative mental health care teams in a VA recent study typically included psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and licensed therapists. In some cases, peer support specialists were also involved. (Photo for illustrative purposes only.)(Photo: ©iStock/asiseeit)

VA is implementing a collaborative care model to treat mental health. After a study involving nine centers proved the effectiveness of the method, it has been implemented at 30 VA medical centers. VA plans to implement this team-based model of care on a national level to benefit more Veterans as well as those who care for them.

Collaborative chronic care models use interdisciplinary teams of health care professionals to coordinate care. In addition to improving teamwork and care processes, collaborative models also aim to help patients take a more active role in their care. Team make-up in the study varied from site to site, usually including psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and licensed therapists. In some cases, peer support specialists were also part of the team.

To test this approach for mental health conditions, researchers studied 5,596 Veterans at VA facilities, and interviewed both patients and clinicians. Implementation improved the team-development measures of role clarity (clarifying each member’s scope of practice, duties, and responsibilities) and team primacy (putting team goals ahead of individual goals). The new model led to significant improvements on a mental health assessment in patients with three or more mental health diagnoses. The facilities also saw a lower rate of mental health hospitalizations in the overall population of Veterans treated by the team.

Principal investigator: Mark S. Bauer, M.D.; VA Boston Healthcare System

Selected publications:

Effectiveness of Implementing a collaborative chronic care model for clinician teams on patient outcomes and health status in mental health: A randomized clinical trial. Bauer MS, Miller CJ, Kim B, Lew R, Stolzmann K, Sullivan J, Riendeau R, Pitcock J, Williamson A, Connoly S, Elwy AR, Weaver K.JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Mar 1;2(3):e190230.

Collaborative care in mental health reduces hospital admissions. Horrom T. VA Research Currents. 2019 March 13.


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