There has been a growing interest in the implementation of evidence-based specialized mental health programs. However, there has been little study of the effectiveness of these programs in comparison with standard mental health care in real world mental health systems. This study used a national sample of patients from the Veterans Health Administration to compare changes in mental health status in various specialized mental health outpatient programs and in general psychiatric clinics. Hierarchical linear models were used to compare the association of both regularity and intensity of care in six specialized mental health programs with GAF change scores in patients treated in general psychiatric clinics. While improvements were observed in all programs, two specialized programs performed better overall than general psychiatric care, one was not significantly different, and three had poorer outcomes than general psychiatric clinics. Programmatic differences in target populations accompanied by imperfect risk adjustment for population differences most likely explain why these results differ from those observed in clinical trials. While the analytic strategies demonstrated here may have wider applicability to comparative performance assessment, this study provides a cautionary tale concerning the limits of conclusions that can be drawn from large scale outcomes monitoring efforts.
Psychiatric Quarterly – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 9, 2006
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