Management of Mental Disorders in VA Primary Care Practices

Published in: Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, v. 33, no. 2, Mar. 2006, p. 208-214

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by Amy Kilbourne, Harold Alan Pincus, Kathleen Schutte, JoAnn E. Kirchner, Gretchen L. Haas, Elizabeth Yano

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The association between facility-level organizational features and management of mental health services was assessed based on a survey of directors from 219 VA primary care facilities. Overall, 26.4% of VA primary care facilities referred patients with depression, while 72.6% and 46.1% referred patients with serious mental illness and substance use disorders, respectively Staffing mix (i.e., physician extenders such as nurse practitioners) was associated with a lesser likelihood of mental health referral. Managed care (preauthorization requirement) was associated with a greater likelihood of referral for depression. VA primary care programs, while tending to refer for more serious mental illnesses, may also be using mental health specialists and physician extenders to provide mental health care within general medical settings.

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