The VISN 4 MIRECC has chosen as its overall theme the treatment and prevention of comorbid medical, mental health, and/or substance use disorders, with the aim of improving the mental and physical health, quality of life, and outcomes of healthcare services for veterans with mental illness. This is accomplished through: translational neuroscience, other clinical research, and health services research; education and training programs; clinical programs built on research findings; and involvement of the 10 VA Medical Centers (eight spoke VAMCs as well as the two host sites and collaborating universities).
Comorbidity, the co-occurrence of a psychiatric illness, a general medical and/or a substance use disorder, is the rule rather than the exception among VA patients. Most veterans suffer from more than one type of condition, which presents clinicians with a more complex set of problems than typically represented in research studies. If researchers neglect to consider comorbidity, they run the risk of developing interventions that do not apply to real patients. Research, education, and clinical practice efforts that acknowledge the high frequency of comorbidity are more likely to be translated into standard practice within VISN 4 and across the entire VA system.