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Successful VA "peer supported pilot project" and RCT funding approval

U Squared Interactive is pleased to provide details of the published outcomes from the VA pilot project conducted by researchers from the US Veterans Administration ("VA"), C. Beau Nelson, Ph.D., Kristen Abraham, Ph.D., Heather Walters, M.S., and Marcia Valenstein, M.D., M.S and published in the Journal Computers in Human Behavior Number 31 February 2014.

The highlights of the research showed:

  • Completion rates for the computer-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program were high
  • Veteran-peers provided support and helped prompt completion of the Computer-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ("cCBT") program
  • Significant decreases in depressive symptoms and increases in hope were observed in post ratings
  • Marginal decreases in anxiety symptoms were also observed
  • The feasibility of a Veteran-peer assisted cCBT program was supported

Abstract of the research

"Depressive disorders are a serious public health concern and treatment priority for the Veterans Health Administration. cCBT is an effective intervention for patients with major depressive disorders; however, rates of program completion are an area of concern, which may be improved through the assistance of peers. This pilot study investigated the feasibility of a Veteran-peer assisted cCBT intervention. Participants were patients diagnosed with depression at an Outpatient Mental Health ("OMH") or Primary Care Mental Health ("PCMH") clinic at a single VHA facility. Participants were paired with a Veteran-peer and given access to a widely used cCBT program via the Internet. Measures of depressive symptoms were obtained at baseline, 4-, and 8-weeks follow-up. Completion rates and program satisfaction were also assessed. At 8 weeks, symptom reductions and completion rates were comparable to study results of brief individual, group CBT, and staff assisted computerized CBT interventions. Significant reductions in depressive symptoms were observed in patients from both clinics, although ratings of program usefulness, relevance, and ease of use were higher for individuals recruited from the PCMH clinic. Peer-assisted cCBT for depression is feasible but further research is needed to determine the clinical efficacy of this approach."

Following this and other work, the VA research team been awarded funding to conduct a randomized clinical trial of Peer-Supported cCBT (Beating the Blues) versus enhanced usual care (EUC) for 330 patients with new episodes of depression in primary care at three VA sites. This research is scheduled to commence in August 2014. John Smith, Chief Operating Officer at U Squared Interactive said "the results from this pilot demonstrate the potential for Beating the Blues to be delivered through a Peer Supported Model. This has two significant benefits in that it enables increased access to affordable care and it potentially provides employment opportunities for Veterans. We have seen similar successful outcomes from peer delivered services in the UK but this is the first published study within the US. We are very grateful to the team at the VA in Michigan for their continued support and their innovative research."

The initial pilot was published in the Journal Computers in Human Behaviour and is available for purchase at: (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563213003622)

Further details of the new Randomized Control Research ("RCT") is available at http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02057042

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