To analyze factors associated with the continuity of mental health care provided for patients referred to healthcare centers.
A follow-up study was carried out with 98 patients assisted between 2003 and 2004. These patients were referred to eight healthcare centers with mental health teams located in the catchment area of a mental health reference venter in the city of Belo Horizonte, Southeastern Brazil. Social, demographic, clinical and continuity variables were described and then compared using the chi-square test.
After referral, 35 patients did not attend the first visit in the healthcare center. Of those who did, 38 continued in treatment. To return to the reference center for a new visit after referral and to have had more than two referrals were factors that facilitated continuity of care. No individual characteristic was associated with continuity.
The findings suggest that there is a gap in the proposal for the line of care. Treatment continuity seems to be more related to service factors than to patients’ characteristics.