Submission Deadline: June 23, 2017

Psychological Services, the official journal of APA Division 18 (Psychologists in Public Service), is extending an invitation for manuscripts to be considered for a special package on improving access and wait times in mental health services.

Drs. Clifford Smith and Matthew Miller have agreed to serve as guest editors.

This special package is focused on the following areas and potential authors are encouraged to submit manuscripts in line with at least one of the following themes:

  • Performance Improvement Projects
    pilot programs with evaluation data showing improvement in access and wait time for mental health services
  • Clinic Efficiency and Workload Monitoring
    evaluation of methods to assist in improving access, including no-show reduction, productivity monitoring, provider accountability for workload and follow-up, and analyses integrating review of demand, utilization, and capacity
  • Program Development
    development of new clinics and programs with outcome data to show improvement in wait time and access (e.g., walk-in clinics, development of integrated primary care programs for same day services, etc.)
  • Measurement Development
    development of measures for monitoring access and wait times to initial and follow-up care and methods for communicating and tracking care coordination
  • Patient Experience and Perceptions of Access and Wait Times
    research focused on patients' experiences of wait times and their relationships with other measures of wait times for mental health services and experience of and satisfaction with care
  • Community Comparison of Wait Time and Access
    studies focused on comparing wait time and access to mental health services across public and private sector settings

Given the focal areas described above, as the APA Division dedicated to psychologists in public service, Division 18 welcomes manuscripts related to these areas including but not limited to the following domains of psychologists working in:

  • police and public safety settings
  • criminal justice settings
  • community/state hospitals
  • Indian Health Services
  • schools and educational systems
  • health/mental health clinics
  • the Department of Veterans Affairs

Meta-analytic papers, empirical papers, and brief reports on pilot programs with evaluation data are all welcomed for submission.

To promote the utility of this special package, all papers submitted must have an administrative application for mental health leaders serving in public sector settings.

Authors are encouraged to include the specific definitions of wait time and access utilized in their studies.

The deadline for receipt of papers for this special package is June 23, 2017. Please follow the Manuscript Submission information located on the Psychological Services homepage.

Manuscripts must be submitted electronically through the Manuscript Submission web portal.

Please specify in your cover letter that the submission is intended for the special package on access and wait times and address your letter to Dr. Lisa Kearney, Associate Editor.

All papers submitted will be initially screened by the editorial board and then sent out for blind peer review, if evaluated as appropriate for the journal.

For further questions related to this special package, please contact Dr. Kearney.


Is timely access to quality mental health care an issue of life or death, on notable occasions?

Research and experience indicate that timely access to care is essential for improving the quality of mental health care and at times can have life-saving impact. Therefore, exceptional mental health treatment with long wait lists does not adequately meet the needs of patients. Waiting for care often means care is not received at all.

Access to private and community-sector mental health care has been identified as problematic for some time. Yet research on how to improve mental health wait times and the impact of access delays on patient and provider satisfaction, mental health specific outcomes, and quality improvement is limited.

A number of staffing and business methodologies, such as pay for performance, implementation of productivity targets, and improvements in scheduling efficiency, have been implemented, although demand for mental health services continues to outstrip the supply of providers and available clinical resources.

A number of challenges are present for researchers and administrators wishing to address mental health wait time.

Reliable wait time metrics have not been adequately developed. Survey data can be difficult and expensive to obtain and capacity measures, such as those assessing the number of days until the third next available appointment, are promising, but also have limitations. Not all scheduling systems generate capacity measure wait time data and these measures do not adequately capture how long an individual patient actually waits, which can impact a patients' experience of and satisfaction with care.

Further, definitions of access differ with some emphasizing the span of time (e.g., number of days) between a patient's preferred date and the patient's scheduled date and others the span of time (e.g., minutes or hours) between a patient's arrival time and the patient's exit time (i.e., "door to provider").

Both are relevant to the patient's experience of healthcare, as a whole, and to improving the overall quality of healthcare.

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