Veterans Affairs Health System and Mental Health Treatment Retention among Patients with Serious Mental Illness

Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Health Services Research (Impact Factor: 2.78). 07/2007; 42(3 Pt 1):1042-60. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00642.x
Source: PubMed


We examine the impact of two dimensions of access-geographic accessibility and availability-on VA health system and mental health treatment retention among patients with serious mental illness (SMI).
Among 156,631 patients in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in fiscal year 1998 (FY98), we used Cox proportional hazards regression to model time to first 12-month gap in health system utilization, and in mental health services utilization, by the end of FY02. Geographic accessibility was operationalized as straight-line distance to nearest VA service site or VA psychiatric service site, respectively. Service availability was assessed using county-level VA hospital beds and non-VA beds per 1,000 county residents. Patients who died without a prior gap in care were censored.
There were 32, 943 patients (21 percent) with a 12-month gap in health system utilization; 65,386 (42 percent) had a 12-month gap in mental health services utilization. Gaps in VA health system utilization were more likely if patients were younger, nonwhite, unmarried, homeless, nonservice-connected, if they had bipolar disorder, less medical morbidity, an inpatient stay in FY98, or if they lived farther from care or in a county with fewer VA inpatient beds. Similar relationships were observed for mental health, however being older, female, and having greater morbidity were associated with increased risks of gaps, and number of VA beds was not significant.
Geographic accessibility and resource availability measures were associated with long-term continuity of care among patients with SMI. Increased distance from providers was associated with greater risks of 12-month gaps in health system and mental health services utilization. Lower VA inpatient bed availability was associated with increased risks of gaps in health system utilization. Study findings may inform efforts to improve treatment retention.

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Available from: Marcia Valenstein, Apr 07, 2015
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    • "Other studies have examined military service member perceptions of barriers to military mental health services [1] or veteran perceptions of barriers and facilitators to mental health care [10,11] and PTSD treatment in particular [8]. Health system barriers to care such as long wait times and long distances to treatment facilities reduce veterans’ ability to access care [12] and this has important implications for discontinuities in utilization of mental health and non mental health services [13]. Thus, a more comprehensive view of access is important to understanding the issue of barriers to care. "
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    ABSTRACT: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented the Polytrauma System of Care to meet the health care needs of military and veterans with multiple injuries returning from combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Studies are needed to systematically assess barriers to use of comprehensive and exclusive VA healthcare services from the perspective of veterans with polytrauma and with other complex health outcomes following their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. These perspectives can inform policy with regard to the optimal delivery of care to returning veterans. We studied combat veterans (n = 359) from two polytrauma rehabilitation centers using structured clinical interviews and qualitative open-ended questions, augmented with data collected from electronic health records. Our outcomes included several measures of exclusive utilization of VA care with our primary exposure as reported access barriers to care. Nearly two thirds of the veterans reported one or more barriers to their exclusive use of VA healthcare services. These barriers predicted differences in exclusive use of VA healthcare services. Experiencing any barriers doubled the returnees' odds of not using VA exclusively, the geographic distance to VA barrier resulted in a 7 fold increase in the returnees odds of not using VA, and reporting a wait time barrier doubled the returnee's odds of not using VA. There were no striking differences in access barriers for veterans with polytrauma compared to other returning veterans, suggesting the barriers may be uniform barriers that predict differences in using the VA exclusively for health care. This study provides an initial description of utilization of VA polytrauma rehabilitation and other medical care for veteran returnees from all military services who were involved in combat operations in Afghanistan or Iraq. Our findings indicate that these veterans reported important stigmatization and barriers to receiving services exclusively from the VA, including mutable health delivery system factors.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · BMC Health Services Research
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    • "Persons with serious mental illnesses (SMI), e.g., bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, experience a disproportionate burden in morbidity and premature mortality from common medical conditions including cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers [1-3]. These physical health disparities may be exacerbated by long gaps in care from the healthcare system due to psychiatric symptoms or access barriers such as lack of transportation, insurance, or relationship with a primary care provider [4,5]. Many evidence-based practices help to mitigate these risks when this population remains engaged in care [6]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Persons with serious mental illness are disproportionately burdened by premature mortality. This disparity is exacerbated by poor continuity of care with the health system. The Veterans Health Administration (VA) developed Re-Engage, an effective population-based outreach program to identify veterans with SMI lost to care and to reconnect them with VA services. However, such programs often encounter barriers getting implemented into routine care. Adaptive designs are needed when the implementation intervention requires augmentation within sites that do not initially respond to an initial implementation intervention. This protocol describes the methods used in an adaptive implementation design study that aims to compare the effectiveness of a standard implementation strategy (Replicating Effective Programs, or REP) with REP enhanced with External Facilitation (enhanced REP) to promote the uptake of Re-Engage.Methods/design: This study employs a four-phase, two-arm, longitudinal, clustered randomized trial design. VA sites (n = 158) across the United States with a designated Re-Engage provider, at least one Veteran with SMI lost to care, and who received standard REP during a six-month run-in phase. Subsequently, 88 sites with inadequate uptake were stratified at the cluster level by geographic region (n = 4) and VA regional service network (n = 20) and randomized to REP (n = 49) vs. enhanced REP (n = 39) in phase two. The primary outcome was the percentage of veterans on each facility outreach list documented on an electronic web registry. The intervention was at the site and network level and consisted of standard REP versus REP enhanced by external phone facilitation consults. At 12 months, enhanced REP sites returned to standard REP and 36 sites with inadequate participation received enhanced REP for six months in phase three. Secondary implementation outcomes included the percentage of veterans contacted directly by site providers and the percentage re-engaged in VA health services. Adaptive implementation designs consisting of a sequence of decision rules that are tailored based on a site's uptake of an effective program may produce more relevant, rapid, and generalizable results by more quickly validating or rejecting new implementation strategies, thus enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of implementation research and potentially leading to the rollout of more cost-efficient implementation strategies.Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN21059161.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Implementation Science
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    • "A few recent studies have examined the effects of contextual variables on access to mental health services, confirming that supply side barriers to access may support or reinforce individual-level disparities (Chow et al., 2003; McCarthy et al., 2007; Stockdale, Tang, Zhang, Belin, & Wells, 2007; Wei, Sambamoorthi, Olfson, Walkup, & Crystal, 2005). Neighborhood racial and ethnic composition likewise account for some racial and ethnic disparities in access, possibly reflecting the impact of language, cultural or attitudinal factors, and service system barriers (Kirby et al., 2006; Padgett et al., 1994). "
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    ABSTRACT: Racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care access in the United States are well documented. Prior studies highlight the importance of individual and community factors such as health insurance coverage, language and cultural barriers, and socioeconomic differences, though these factors fail to explain the extent of measured disparities. A critical factor in mental health care access is a local area's organization and supply of mental health care providers. However, it is unclear how geographic differences in provider organization and supply impact racial/ethnic disparities. The present study is the first analysis of a nationally representative U.S. sample to identify contextual factors (county-level provider organization and supply, as well as socioeconomic characteristics) associated with use of mental health care services and how these factors differ across racial/ethnic groups. Hierarchical logistic models were used to examine racial/ethnic differences in the association of county-level provider organization (health maintenance organization (HMO) penetration) and supply (density of specialty mental health providers and existence of a community mental health center) with any use of mental health services and specialty mental health services. Models controlled for individual- and county-level socio-demographic and mental health characteristics. Increased county-level supply of mental health care providers was significantly associated with greater use of any mental health services and any specialty care, and these positive associations were greater for Latinos and African-Americans compared to non-Latino Whites. Expanding the mental health care workforce holds promise for reducing racial/ethnic disparities in mental health care access. Policymakers should consider that increasing the management of mental health care may not only decrease expenditures, but also provide a potential lever for reducing mental health care disparities between social groups.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · Social Science [?] Medicine
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