New Initiative Aims to Improve Veterans Health and Care Delivery
Integrating mental health services and primary care has long been seen as a key step to achieve better health outcomes. Nowhere is the need for integrated care more urgent than among America’s veterans, who often face complex physical and mental health conditions. Roughly one in three Veterans Health Administration (VA) primary care patients have mental health comorbidities. However, despite the widespread support for integrated care, actual translation into common practice has been challenging. To accelerate this process, several offices in the VA have joined forces to implement a model that deploys peer specialists at the crossroads of mental health and primary care.
Peer specialists are veterans who have been trained to use their lived experience of mental health and/or substance abuse to engage other veterans, provide support, and guide them through their treatment. Peer specialists provide a different form…
Patrick Tang, MPH
Every year, Peers for Progress looks to the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine as an opportunity to learn from experts, share research findings from our network, and get inspired to take action. The conference caters to a wide range of interests, and yet attendees could spend the entire conference focusing on a narrow topic area. For example, I was particularly excited to see the number of presentations on technology-enhanced peer support and health coaching.
On our part, Peers for Progress investigators organized two symposia on peer support. The first symposium, Inside the Black Box: Deconstructing Social and Peer Support, took a deep dive into the mechanisms of effective interventions and offered practical recommendations to improve peer support programs. The second symposium, Peer Support: Channels of Dissemination, featured three model programs that have the potential to expand and sustain peer support for whole populations.
Clayton Velicer, MPH
Peers for Progress, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC) cohosted a conference in April about the role of peer support in patient-centered medical homes and primary care. During the conference, we challenged each other to think about how peer supporters and community health workers can make the system more efficient, manageable, and affordable.
In this blog, we look at a specific example of incorporating lay health workers into the primary care health care team as “care guides”. The Health Affairs Blog highlighted the Robina project, which hired 12 lay health care workers (care guides) to work as part of a health care team serving patients with chronic diseases. These care guides did not have any medical training, but received a two week training on a number of topics including electronic health records, specific information about disease (hypertension, diabetes, and heart failure), tobacco…