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Treatment Differences in Primary and Specialty Settings in Veterans with Major Depression.

Puac-Polanco V, Leung LB, Bossarte RM, Bryant C, Keusch JN, Liu H, Ziobrowski HN, Pigeon WR, Oslin DW, Post EP, Kessler RC. Treatment Differences in Primary and Specialty Settings in Veterans with Major Depression. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine : JABFM. 2021 Mar 1; 34(2):268-290.

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INTRODUCTION: The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) supports the nation''s largest primary care-mental health integration (PC-MHI) collaborative care model to increase treatment of mild to moderate common mental disorders in primary care (PC) and refer more severe-complex cases to specialty mental health (SMH) settings. It is unclear how this treatment assignment works in practice. METHODS: Patients (n = 2610) who sought incident episode VHA treatment for depression completed a baseline self-report questionnaire about depression severity-complexity. Administrative data were used to determine settings and types of treatment during the next 30 days. RESULTS: Thirty-four percent (34.2%) of depressed patients received treatment in PC settings, 65.8% in SMH settings. PC patients had less severe and fewer comorbid depressive episodes. Patients with lowest severity and/or complexity were most likely to receive PC antidepressant medication treatment; those with highest severity and/or complexity were most likely to receive combined treatment in SMH settings. Assignment of patients across settings and types of treatment was stronger than found in previous civilian studies but less pronounced than expected (cross-validated AUC = 0.50-0.68). DISCUSSION: By expanding access to evidence-based treatments, VHA''s PC-MHI increases consistency of treatment assignment. Reasons for assignment being less pronounced than expected and implications for treatment response will require continued study.

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