Patient Aligned Care Teams and Mental Health - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


Patient Aligned Care Teams and Mental Health

How does the Milwaukee VA currently align Mental Health care under the Patient Aligned Care Team concept?
The Milwaukee VA Mental Health staff collaborates closely with providers in the Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT) to provide comprehensive care that focuses on maximizing emotional and physical well-being.

Mental Health providers, including psychologists, are imbedded in such primary care programs as the Primary Care Gold Clinic, Smoking Cessation Clinic, Women’s Health Clinic, and Women’s Resource Center.  Our facility also has a Primary Care-Mental Health Integration Team, consisting of a nurse practitioner, registered nurse, and social worker, that serves as a resource for all Veterans seeking care in the Primary Care PACT teams. 

Finally, the Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic provides immediate access to Mental Health providers on a walk-in basis.

What is the purpose for doing this?
Integration of Mental Health and PACT care is beneficial in a number of ways.  Research indicates that the quality of care is improved when both emotional and physical concerns are addressed simultaneously.  Also, integration allows for better prevention of medical and mental health issues along with earlier identification and treatment of both physical and emotional problems when they do occur.

Does this cut down on wait times for people who come in for one thing, but need a Mental Health consult?

Yes.  Research supports the idea that combining physical and mental health care allows staff to help a larger number of patients, provides increased access to Mental Health services, and decreases wait times for receiving services.

What if I come to the VA for one issue, but I experience Post Traumatic Stress or another mental health issue?
You can request follow-up from a Mental Health provider at any time.  Your primary care provider can alert Mental Health staff of your needs, and you will be offered options for follow-up, which may include individual, group, couples and/or family psychotherapy, medication, educational classes, or other support. 

How does coordinating my mental health care with other primary care providers benefit me as a patient?
As mentioned above, you are likely to access Mental Health services more quickly when they are integrated with your other care.  Also, patients who receive integrated care are more likely to comply with, and therefore benefit from, their medical treatment recommendations than those who do not.  Also, Mental Health staff can assist you and your primary care provider in more effectively managing chronic medical conditions, including pain, weight, diabetes, hypertension, insomnia, and depression.

How does the VA plan to grow this program in the future?
Several plans are in the works to expand the integration of Mental Health and PACT services at our VA.  Over the past year, a Mental Health training program including a psychology fellow, pharmacy resident, and social work intern became established in the Primary Care Gold Clinic with excellent results.  Efforts to expand co-located Mental Health-Primary Care services will continue throughout the facility in the years to come.  In addition, our Health Behavior Coordinator psychologist currently is training PACT staff in principles of integrated care and is developing groups for Veterans on such topics as stress and weight management.

Anything else Veterans should know about this care?
Our VA strives to provide well-rounded care focused on the whole Veteran.  Integration of Mental Health and PACT services is required in order to do this well.  We welcome your suggestions on how we can continue to improve.