HumanInsight Provision of Mental Health Services in the Veterans Health Administration: A Nationwide Comparison With Other Providers
Psychiatr Serv. 2022 Oct 27:appips202100713. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.202100713. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: Public interest in developing a national health care system has grown in the United States, but so have concerns that a large system would provide poor care. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest national U.S. health care system, and several of its performance measures have been compared with those of non-VHA organizations. However, few studies have compared VHA's overall provision of mental health care services, and this study aimed to fill this gap.
METHODS: Using 2018 National Mental Health Services Survey data, the authors examined the differences in provision of 45 treatment modalities, specialized services, and dedicated programs between self-identified VHA facilities (N=459), non-VHA facilities that serve only adults (N=3,671), and non-VHA facilities that serve all ages (N=6,378).
RESULTS: Self-identified VHA facilities offered more services (including more treatment modalities, specialized services, and dedicated programs) (mean±SD=24.2±8.9 services) than both non-VHA adult-only facilities (15.4±6.8; Cohen's d=1.11, p<0.001) and non-VHA all-ages facilities (17.1±6.6; Cohen's d=0.90, p<0.001). Notably, VHA facilities were more likely to offer electroconvulsive therapy and telemedicine. VHA facilities were more likely to offer integrated primary care, chronic illness management, supportive housing, vocational rehabilitation, and psychiatric emergency services, among others. Last, VHA facilities were more likely to offer dedicated treatment programs for patients identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, as well as for patients with posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or dementia.
CONCLUSIONS: VHA facilities offer no fewer and possibly more comprehensive mental health services per facility than do non-VHA facilities, possibly because VHA represents an integrated and centralized health system.
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