Brief Immersion Training in Primary Care–Mental Health Integration: Program Description and Initial Findings

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Abstract

Primary Care-Mental Health Integration (PCMHI) within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is a blend of care management and colocated, collaborative care in which mental health providers are colocated within primary care clinics to provide increased access to mental health services and consultation, early identification and intervention for mental health concerns, and elimination of barriers to mental health care. Managed care systems are increasingly integrating mental health providers in primary care, in recognition that such integration typically improves access to care, quality of care, and reduces cost. PCMHI is quite different from specialty mental health care; it involves population-based, stepped care utilizing brief targeted assessments and interventions and utilizes rapid and concise documentation and consultation. Unfortunately, most traditionally trained mental health providers are unprepared to work in primary care settings given the substantial differences between specialty mental health and PCMHI. As such, there is a need for training programs in PCMHI. The present study details a brief immersion training program that provides exposure to the nature, methods, and practice of PCMHI at a large midwestern Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Participants (n = 24) completing the training reported increased knowledge of the PCMHI model and comfort with PCMHI practice. Clinical and research implications are discussed.

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