Continuity of care: Validation of a new self-report measure for individuals using mental health services

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Continuity of care is a concern for individuals with persistent mental illness who need diverse services over time in response to multiple and changing needs. Efforts to study continuity have been hampered by lack of appropriate instruments. The Alberta Continuity of Services Scale — Mental Health is a newly developed, self-report scale that assesses continuity of care across settings and providers. This study examined the structure, reliability, and validity of the measure among users of community mental health programs. Findings were positive. Scores captured both positive and negative perceptions of care. Factor analyses elucidated 3 components of continuity—system access, interpersonal aspects, and care team function. Associations between the continuity scores and selected client and service use measures supported its validity. The tool holds promise for system monitoring, but would need refinements to create a shorter, conceptually clearer version. Also, performance among individuals with mild and very severe levels of mental illness needs to be evaluated.

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