Mental health service navigation: a scoping review of programmatic features and research evidence

Jeffrey Waid, Kelly Halpin, Rebecca Donaldson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Service navigation is a care coordination approach that is designed to resolve barriers and facilitate access to needed services. Originating within primary and specialty health care sectors, navigation models have recently emerged to support engagement with mental health services. Presently little is known about the nature, extent, and research evidence for mental health service navigation programs. To address this gap in knowledge, this study undertook a scoping review to identify, describe, and appraise current models of mental health service navigation. Data sources included PsychINFO, Medline, CINAHL, and Google Scholar. Inclusion eligibility required studies to describe a study design, recruitment strategy, navigation approach, sample characteristics, and study outcomes. Searches were constrained to English language and published after January 1, 2000. Twenty-five studies met the inclusion criteria. Navigation programs targeted diverse populations and were delivered in-person, by telephone, and online. Navigators included peers, paraprofessionals, clinicians, teams, and web applications. Eleven studies reported results from randomized trials, remaining programs employed program evaluation, qualitative, or CBPR methodologies. Common features of navigation programs included engagement, assessment, service identification, referral, and monitoring/follow-up. Current evidence for mental health service navigation is promising, although additional rigorous randomized controlled trials are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-79
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Work in Mental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture [Hatch Project #1017836].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis.


  • Intervention
  • mental health
  • navigation
  • services


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