Public-Private Partnerships for Providing Behavioral Health Care to Veterans and Their Families

What Do We Know, What Do We Need to Learn, and What Do We Need to Do?

by Eric R. Pedersen, Nicole K. Eberhart, Kayla M. Williams, Terri Tanielian, Caroline Batka, Deborah M. Scharf

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Research Questions

  1. What are public-private partnerships?
  2. Why would public-private partnerships be helpful in addressing the behavioral health needs of veterans and their families?
  3. What are the key components for successful public-private partnerships in veteran behavioral health?

American veterans and their family members struggle with behavioral health problems, yet few engage in treatment to address these problems. Barriers to care include trouble accessing treatment and limited communication between civilian and military health care systems, which treat veterans and their family members separately. Even though the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making efforts to address barriers to care, more work is needed to effectively serve veterans and their families. Public-private partnerships have been discussed as a potential solution and could include collaborations between a public agency, such as the VA, and a private organization, such as a veteran service organization, private industry, or private hospital. Despite the call for such partnerships, not much is known about what a public-private partnership would entail for addressing behavioral health concerns for veterans and their families. The health care literature is sparse in this area, and published examples and recommendations are limited. Thus, the authors wrote this report to inform the creation of public-private partnerships to better serve veterans and their families. The report outlines nine key components for public-private partnerships addressing veteran behavioral health care. These components are supported by qualitative interview data from five successful public-private partnerships that serve veterans and their families. This report will assist policymakers in the VA and other federal agencies in developing and fostering public-private partnerships to address the behavioral health care needs of veterans and their families. The report also discusses next steps for research and policymaking efforts with regard to these partnerships.

Key Findings

The Report Outlines Nine Key Components of Public-Private Partnerships Relevant for Veteran Behavioral Health

  • Public-private partnerships offer a potential opportunity to improve the standard of current care for veterans and their families.
  • A champion is needed. Typically, key people within the public agency take the lead on creating the partnership.
  • Stakeholder support is critical. Support from the nonpublic communities involved in the partnership is necessary at the regional and local levels.
  • Successful public-private partnerships develop a clear description of the plan for addressing the established need and consider the risks in addition to the benefits likely to emerge from the partnership.
  • The structure of the public-private partnership is typically established at the beginning of the relationship, with a dedicated support structure and staff that monitor the process from inception to the evaluation of outcomes.
  • Successful public-private partnerships draw on the strengths of the public and the private entities so that both can work together toward a common goal.
  • Most partnerships are time limited by way of contracts and agreements, but there should be consideration of financial capacity for the long-term sustainability of efforts.
  • Sustainability is important to ensure that the partnership is making an impact on the targeted systems or populations.
  • Flexibility is key. Partners need to be flexible in adapting to technological innovations, information technology, needs of the target population, funding environments, and changes to strategic objectives over time.

Recommendations

  • Establish a clear definition of a successful public-private partnership.
  • Conduct rigorous research on public-private partnerships.
  • Adopt a continuous quality-improvement framework into public-private partnerships.
  • Make clear funding allocations to evaluate programs and obtain data to support future sustainability efforts.
  • Expand on established community-based public-private partnerships.
  • Encourage organizations to seek out public-private partnerships to meet their goals.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted within RAND Health.

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