Stay up to date with Updates Groundbreaking CARS Tool to Help People in Crisis

The Tool Has Been Adapted as a Mental Health Screening Instrument

Arlington, V.A. – As impaired driving fatalities become an increasing problem on our nation’s roadways, today unveiled a new version of the Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS), a critical screening and assessment tool that helps identify and address the root cause of certain substance use and other mental health disorders and connects people to treatment resources.

Adapted for a broader audience to help all people in crisis, the new CARS Mental Health screener is free and now available to download on open-source software. The CARS screener incorporates DSM-5 criteria and instantly generates personalized diagnostic reports that are easy to understand, and with a ZIP code locator provides users with local mental health and treatment resources in a user-friendly report. The critical new updates were announced during a webinar entitled, “Alcohol Use Disorders Among U.S. Veterans—How to Provide Improved Identification and Treatment” today.

“According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 17 million adults had a substance use disorder and a mental health illness and nearly 15% needed substance use treatment,” said Chris Swonger President and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and “Mental health problems that extend beyond substance use disorders are common among people with addiction, and can affect treatment outcomes. CARS can facilitate identifying mental health needs and facilitate treatment referral in less than 40 minutes.”

Originally created for criminal justice practitioners to help identify individuals with psychiatric co-morbidity, the adapted mental health screener will be useful for physicians, mental health professionals, first responders, and veterans service organizations.

The new screener can be administered or used as a self-screener to evaluate for potential disorders and identify mental health areas that warrant additional attention and includes the following components:

  • The assessment consists of different modulesadministered for each psychiatric disorder or psychosocial domain.
  • The report generator includes personalized information about the mental health disorders for which a client qualifies or is at risk, condensing the information into a streamlined, reader-friendly format.
  • The referral generator compiles a list of resources dependent on the issues and location of the client.

“The approach to the tool is user friendly and identifies substance use disorders and an array of mental health issues. It is easily used by our clinicians and staff members and allows us to populate the tool with our community resources,” said The Honorable Robert Anchondo, Judge, El Paso County, Criminal Court. “The screening determines if the participant is at a high risk for recidivism and needs treatment. This is vitally essential since we, as a treatment court, need to commence these services immediately or determine if residential placement should be the first step.”

Created by the Cambridge Health Alliance at Harvard Medical School, has been a proud sponsor of the CARS screening and assessment tool, first released in 2017 for a select audience.

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