Date: 21 Feb 2008

Integrating Mental Health and Primary Care Services in the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System

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Abstract

Integrating mental health care in the primary care setting has been identified in the literature as a model for increasing access to mental health services and has been associated with enhanced clinical and functional patient outcomes and higher patient satisfaction. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system, has taken a leadership role in creating a health care system in which mental health care is provided in the primary care setting. This article examines VA’s efforts and progress to date in implementing evidence-based models of integrated mental health services nationally in community based outpatient clinics, home based primary care, and outpatient primary clinics at medical facilities. Psychology plays an important role in this progress, as part of an overall interdisciplinary effort, in which all professions are crucially important and work together to promote the overall well-being of patients.

This article is based in part on a presentation by the first author at the 3rd National Conference of the Association of Psychologists in Academic Health Centers (APAHC) in May of 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.