National Variations in VA Mental Health Care for Women Veterans

ArticleinWomen s Health Issues 21(4 Suppl):S130-7 · July 2011with8 Reads
Impact Factor: 2.33 · DOI: 10.1016/j.whi.2011.04.029 · Source: PubMed


    Although the Veterans Health Administration (VA) has recently adopted new policies encouraging gender-specific mental health (MH) care delivery to women veterans, little is known about the potential difficulties local facilities may face in achieving compliance. We assessed variations in women's mental health care delivery arrangements in VA facilities nationwide.
    We used results from the VA Survey of Women Veterans Health Programs, a key informant survey of senior women's health clinicians representing all VA facilities serving more than 300 women veterans, to assess the array of gender-sensitive mental health care arrangements (response rate, 86%; n = 195). We also examined organizational and area factors related to availability of women's specialty mental health arrangements using multivariable logistic regression.
    Nationally, over half (53%) of VA facilities had some form of gender-sensitive mental health care arrangements. Overall, 34% of sites reported having designated women's mental health providers in general outpatient mental health clinics (MHCs). Almost half (48%) had therapy groups for women in their MHCs. VAs with women's primary care clinics also delivered mental health services (24%), and 12% of VAs reported having a separate women's MHC, most of which (88%) offered sexual trauma group counseling. Assignment to same-gender mental health providers is not routine. VAs with comprehensive women's primary care clinics were more likely to integrate mental health care for women as well.
    Local implementation of gender-sensitive mental health care in VA settings is highly variable. Although this variation may reflect diverse local needs and resources, women veterans may also sometimes face challenges in accessing needed services.