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Psych Congress  

Partners in Mental Health: Certified PAs as an Innovative Strategy to Expand Access


Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D., PA-C – NCCPA & NCCPA Health Foundation; Andrzej Kozikowski, PhD – NCCPA


With increasing mental health needs and insufficient numbers of mental health providers, Certified PAs are an innovative solution to expand access to care. Educated in the medical model, the more than 131,000 PAs are partners in evaluating, managing and prescribing for whole-person care. This study collected demographic and practice analysis data regarding how PAs provide mental health services. A practice analysis delineates the knowledge and skills that characterize proficient performance, and the survey included diseases and disorders as well as knowledge and skill statements that PAs rated on frequency and criticality scales. Aggregated data was analyzed using descriptive statistics. With a 16.9% response rate that is a representative sample of the PA profession, analysis identified the top 10 diseases and disorders seen by PAs practicing in psychiatry and compared the frequency to those diseases and disorders seen by PAs across practice areas. Further analyses identified percentages of PAs using knowledge and skills at least weekly; for example, 62% of all PAs are evaluating patients with psychiatric symptoms and 45% are conducting a risk assessment for suicidal/homicidal ideation and violence/harm to self or others. Additional analyses looked at substance use disorder. Certified PAs adapt to meet unmet needs and are addressing mental health in psychiatry and across practice settings. This analysis establishes baselines to track contributions longitudinally and informs efforts to advance PA roles and strengthen partnerships with the mental health community. Additional research is needed to strengthen practice integration and raise awareness of PA models to address these critical needs.

This poster was presented at the 32nd annual Psych Congress, held Oct. 3-6, 2019, in San Diego, California.

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