Testing a Scalable Model of Care to Improve Patients’ Access to Mental Health Services after Traumatic Injury

Sponsor/Type: AHRQ
Project Period: 05/01/2022 – 02/28/2026


Annually, traumatic injuries affect roughly 3 million people in the US and account for over $650B in costs. Many patients are resilient and recover well emotionally, but over 20% (~600,000 people per year) develop mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, both major risk factors for social and occupational impairment; poor physical health and quality of life; and lost productivity, work, and financial resources. Most trauma centers do not address the mental health recovery of patients after a traumatic injury.

This gap in the quality of patient care, combined with unique barriers to mental health services that traumatic injury patients face, necessitates a cost-effective intervention that meets the needs of these patients at each stage of the recovery process. We will test the Trauma Resilience and Recovery Program (TRRP), a scalable, sustainable technology-enhanced intervention to support the mental health recovery of patients who have experienced a traumatic injury. The model includes education, risk screening, and brief intervention at the bedside (Step 1); symptom self-monitoring and continued education via a daily text messaging system (Step 2); mental health screening at 30 days via chatbot or telephone (Step 3); and, when appropriate, mental health treatment referrals (Step 4).

Our previous work has provided strong support for the acceptability and feasibility of TRRP: (1) 98% of patients approached at Step 1 by TRRP staff at the bedside enroll in mental health follow-up, (2) more than 2 in 3 patients enroll in the symptom self-monitoring system (Step 2), and (3) 75% of patients who screen positive for PTSD or depression at the 30-day call (Step 3) accept treatment referrals (Step 4). TRRP staff has provided mental health follow-up to over 8,000 patients to date, only about 400 of whom would have received mental health follow-up services under usual-care conditions based on the results of our needs assessment.

We are implementing TRRP in 12 trauma centers in the Carolinas, 4 of which already have fully implemented it. This experience has informed the approach we propose to use in partnership with George Washington University (GWU) hospital. We will conduct a randomized controlled trial with 1-year follow up of TRRP vs. enhanced usual care with 350 patients at GWU, which serves a diverse population of ~2000 traumatic injury patients per year (15% penetrating mechanism).

Engagement in mental health services and clinical and functional outcomes will be assessed 3, 6, and 12 months post-baseline by trained interviewers blind to study condition. Qualitative interviews will be conducted with 20 TRRP patients who have experienced violent trauma as well as 15 African American and 15 Latinx patients who have experienced non-violent trauma. These data will inform improvements to the TRRP model as well as the implementation process in preparation for a future hybrid implementation-effectiveness trial with 8 trauma centers. This body of work is critical to informing the field as it continues to move toward national standards and recommendations.

For more information contact
Ken Ruggiero