Computerized Assessment & Referral System (CARS)

Computerized Assessment and Referral System

The Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS) is an easy to use software package that includes a mental health screener and generates individualized clinical reports. This computer guided interview incorporates a structured diagnostic mental health assessment adapted from an internationally-validated instrument. Comprehensive clinical assessment tools can provide high quality diagnostic information that helps treatment planning, but commonly are not user-friendly. CARS packages a powerful mental health assessment tool with a user-friendly interface. CARS is a tool that laypeople can use easily to administer comprehensive mental health assessments. CARS output includes personalized information about the client’s mental health disorders or risks, a summary of other risk factors and important issues, and a list of related health resources that provide services for clients’ particular issues and location.

Why Do People and Programs Need CARS?

Co-occurring mental health problems are common among people with addiction; these disorders can affect treatment outcomes. Yet, in a variety of clinical settings (e.g., addiction treatment facilities or DUI offender programs), staff often are unable to screen clients for psychiatric disorders.

Even when treatment programs attempt to estimate the extent of psychiatric disorders, in the absence of systematic screening tools those efforts often are inaccurate. Research has shown that health care providers make errors when identifying mental health problems, especially when those problems are not in their area of expertise. Consequently, standardized and automated assessment and diagnosis tools are essential to the widespread adoption of mental health screening. Because CARS is based upon the internationally-recognized CIDI (i.e., Comprehensive International Diagnostic Interview), the included assessments are well-validated and reliable.

One practical problem with standardized assessment tools — that can contribute to staff resistance — is that many such tools are used only for research purposes. As a result, these tools provide no immediate output for counselors or clients during a clinical session. If a tool can supply immediate assessment or diagnostic feedback, it can serve to increase clinical compliance and improve treatment outcomes. The reports CARS generates assist staff by providing personalized information about disorders and possible referral sources for their clients.

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