Study Examines Predictors of Veterans’ Use of Mental Health Services
Since 1997, the use of mental health services for Veterans seeking VA care has increased at an annual rate of 7%, yet studies show that Veterans with severe mental illness and comorbid health conditions are under-diagnosed and underuse mental health services. This prospective, observational study examined the effect of predisposing characteristics, enabling resources, and clinical need on mental health services use, as well as their combined effect on clinical outcomes. Investigators assessed clinician ratings of psychiatric impairment and self-report assessments for 421 Veterans who received mental health services (MHS) at one of two VAMCs in the Boston area from mid-2004 through mid-2006 – at enrollment and three-month follow up. Mental health services included inpatient, outpatient, and residential treatment.
Findings show that being older, female, having greater clinical need, lack of enabling resources (e.g., employment, stable housing, social support), and fewer problems with access to treatment significantly predicted increased MHS use over the three-month follow-up period. Results also show that fewer outpatient mental health visits did not adversely affect clinical outcomes. The authors suggest that these findings highlight numerous health and socioeconomic needs of Veterans, which are likely to be exacerbated in difficult economic times, but which are amenable to interventions. Findings also support VA’s ongoing commitment to provide special programs and initiatives focused on easing access to mental health services, vocational rehabilitation, and housing assistance.
Fasoli D, Glickman M, and Eisen S. The effect of predisposing characteristics, enabling resources, and need on utilization and outcomes for Veterans receiving mental health services. Medical Care April 2010;48(4):288-95.
All authors are part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Quality, Outcomes, and Economic Research in Bedford, MA.