Objective: To evaluate a Better Outcomes of Mental Health Care Access to Allied Psychological Services Program for general practice patients referred for high-prevalence mental disorders.
Methods: Participants were South Australian general practitioners (GPs; n=26) and their patients referred for treatment of high-prevalence psychological disorders, of whom 229 provided baseline measures, 106 provided post-treatment measures, and 85 provided follow-up data three months after termination of treatment. Interventions were Focused Psychological Strategies supplied by mental health specialists; outcome variables included GP satisfaction, patient satisfaction, psychological distress, life impairment, and health service usage.
Results: Satisfaction with the treatment program was high for both the GPs and the referred patients. Patients who attended three or more treatment sessions showed reduced distress and disability, and gains were maintained three months later. Health service usage declined with acceptance of referral regardless of treatment experience.
Conclusions: Lack of controls and missing data were methodological weaknesses. Results support the effectiveness of integrated primary mental health care to reduce psychological distress and disability, while impact on service usage warrants further investigation.
Implications: Reduction of suffering and increased economic productivity may both result from this public health initiative to increase access to effective treatments for common chronic mental conditions.