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Specialty Mental Health Care Improves Patients' Outcomes: Findings from a Nationwide Program to Monitor the Quality of Care for Patients with Substance Use Disorders
Rudolf H. Moos, John W. Finney, Elizabeth B. Federman, Richard Suchinsky
Objective: To describe the implementation of a nationwide program to monitor the quality of treatment for substance use disorders in the Department of Veterans Affairs, and to examine how the provision of outpatient mental health care, and the duration and intensity of care, relate to patients' outcomes. Method: Clinicians completed a baseline Addiction Severity Index (ASI) on more than 34,000 patients with substance use disorders; more than 21,000 (63%) were reassessed with the ASI an average of 12 months later. Nationwide health service utilization databases were used to obtain information about patients' diagnoses and their use of services during an index episode of care. Results: On average, patients who received specialty outpatient mental health care experienced better risk-adjusted outcomes than did patients who did not receive such care. Patients who had longer index episodes of mental health care improved more than did those who had shorter episodes. There was some evidence that the duration of care contributed more to better outcomes among patients with only substance use disorders, whereas the intensity of care was more important for patients with both substance use and psychiatric disorders. Conclusions: The provision of specialty outpatient mental health care, and longer episodes of specialty care, were associated with better risk-adjusted substance use, symptom and social functioning outcomes for patients with substance use disorders. More emphasis should be placed on ensuring that these patients enter specialty care and on keeping them in treatment. (J. Stud. Alcohol 61: 704-713, 2000)