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Health Services Research & Development

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Predictors and outcomes of outpatient mental health care: a 4-year prospective study of elderly Medicare patients with substance use disorders.

Brennan PL, Kagay CR, Geppert JJ, Moos RH. Predictors and outcomes of outpatient mental health care: a 4-year prospective study of elderly Medicare patients with substance use disorders. Medical care. 2001 Jan 1; 39(1):39-49.

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BACKGROUND: Many elderly inpatients have substance use disorders; recent treatment guidelines suggest that they should receive regular outpatient mental health care after discharge from hospital. OBJECTIVE: The prevalence, predictors, and outcomes of outpatient mental health care obtained by elderly Medicare patients with substance use disorders were examined. RESEARCH DESIGN: A longitudinal prospective follow-up was performed. SUBJECTS: Data from Medicare Provider Analysis and Review Record and Part B Medicare Annual Data were used to identify elderly inpatients with substance use disorders (n = 4,961) and determine their outpatient mental health care 4 years following hospital discharge. RESULTS: Only 12% to 17% of surviving elderly substance abuse patients received outpatient mental health care in each of 4 years after discharge. Cumulatively over 4 years, approximately 18% of surviving patients obtained diagnostic/evaluative mental health services, 22% obtained psychotherapy, and 9% received medication management. Of patients who obtained outpatient mental health care, 57% made 10 or fewer outpatient mental health visits over the entire 4 years. Younger, non-black, and female patients were more likely to obtain mental health outpatient care, as were patients with prior substance-related hospitalizations, dual diagnoses, and fewer medical conditions. Prompt outpatient mental health care was predictively associated with higher likelihood of mental health readmissions and, among patients with drug disorders, lower mortality. CONCLUSION: Very few elderly Medicare substance abuse patients obtain outpatient mental health care, perhaps because of health or economic barriers.

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