Equity in veterans' mental health care: Veterans Affairs medical center clinics versus community-based outpatient clinics

Am J Med Qual. Mar-Apr 2008;23(2):128-35. doi: 10.1177/1062860607313144. Epub 2008 Jan 29.


This study examined differences in structures and processes of mental health care at Veterans Administration (VA) primary care clinics, comparing VA medical center (VAMC) clinics to community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs). A survey was conducted of nurse managers at 46 of 49 primary care clinics (23 VAMC clinics and 23 CBOCs) within a VA health care network in the south central United States. Integration of care and services overall was comparable between VAMC clinics and CBOCs. The service mix differed. Integrated CBOCs more often offered group therapy, medication management, and smoking cessation. Integrated VAMC clinics more frequently used written suicide protocols and depression screening. Distance to offsite specialty care and wait times for referrals were shorter for patients at VAMCs than at CBOCs. The provision of mental health care at CBOCs is comparable to that at VAMC clinics, although differences in patient access to offsite care indicate that full equity was not achieved at the time of the survey. Since 2000, the VA has initiated several programs to address this need.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Referral and Consultation / organization & administration
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs