Collaboration Between Mental Health Professionals and Family Physicians: A Survey of New Jersey Family Physicians

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Background: Mental health problems are frequent in primary care, and there are many barriers to their detection and treatment. Clinical research protocols that include close collaboration between mental health professionals and primary care physicians have been found to be beneficial. This study explores the opinions of community family physicians regarding mental health professionals working directly in the primary care office.

Method: Members of the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians (N = 709) were sent a 25-item questionnaire about collaboration with mental health professionals. Three mailings were sent, with a 62% response rate. The surveys were mailed between May and July 1999.

Results: Of family physicians included in the analysis, 13.5% reported having an in-office mental health professional. Of those who did not, 60.2% responded that they would consider having one. Compared with physicians who would not consider having an in-office mental health professional, physicians with a mental health professional and those without an in-office mental health professional but who would consider one were statistically more likely (p < .01) to respond that an in-office mental health professional would result in increased use of mental health services, improved acceptance of referrals to mental health professionals, and improved detection and treatment of mental health problems.

Conclusion: Although few family physicians have an in-office mental health professional, many more would consider this arrangement and recognize the potential benefits of such collaboration.

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2005;7(1):12-14