Dr. Dennis Donovan, Director of the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI), was appointed to and serves as one of 17 members of a National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee to Evaluate the Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services. The committee will comprehensively assess the quality, capacity, and access to mental health care services, including treatment of substance use disorders, for veterans who served in the Armed Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND). The IOM committee will assess the spectrum of mental health services available across the entire US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) nationally. The committee will determine the extent to which veterans are afforded choices with respect to modes of treatment and will determine whether, and the extent to which, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are being offered a full range of necessary mental health services in the VA, including early intervention services for hazardous drinking, relationship problems, and other behaviors that create a risk for the development of chronic mental health conditions.
The scope of this assessment includes analysis not only of the quality and capacity of mental health care services within the VA, but also barriers faced by patients in utilizing those services. Types of evidence to be considered by the IOM committee in its assessment include relevant scientific literature and other documents, interviews with VA mental health professionals, survey data to be provided by the VA, and results from surveys of veterans to be conducted independently by the committee. Site visits will be conducted to at least one VA medical center in each of 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks across the country. In addition, the committee will hold an open meeting of experts to discuss the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary’s plan for the development and implementation of a comprehensive set of measures to assess mental health care services in the VA regarding timeliness of services, satisfaction of patients, capacity of service provision, and availability of evidence-based therapies. The committee also will discuss at the open meeting the Secretary’s report on the development and implementation of guidelines for the staffing of general and specialty mental health care services, including provider productivity standards. The committee will provide a final report with recommendations to the Secretary of the VA regarding overcoming barriers and improving access to mental health care in the VA, as well as increasing effectiveness and efficiency.
In addition to providing expertise in substance use disorder treatment to the committee, Dr. Donovan also brings the experience of having worked within the VA system for nearly 20 years prior to assuming his role at ADAI, with his last positions as the Associate and then Acting Director of the National Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse Treatment and Education (CESATE) at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.