Background: Patients treated in community clinics, particularly those of minority status, may rely more heavily on primary care physicians (PCPs) for the diagnosis and management of depression. We wished to determine how PCPs in a community clinic setting initially manage patients newly diagnosed with major depression. Methods: 698 patients were screened for major depression by the Structural Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R in a community-based primary care health center. Forty outpatients (29 Hispanic) were found to suffer from major depression. A letter explaining positive findings was sent to the patients’ PCPs. Medical record charts were reviewed 3 months later to determine the PCP’s management following the diagnosis. Results: Of the 38 patients who remained in the study at 3 months, 20 (53%) received no intervention from the PCP by the end of 3 months after diagnosis, and of these, 14 were Hispanic. Five (13%) were prescribed an antidepressant by the PCP. Nine (24%) were referred to mental health services for medication, psychotherapy or combination treatment. Four (11%) were prescribed an antidepressant and then referred to mental health services. Differences between management of Hispanic and non-Hispanic patients were not statistically significant. Conclusions: Independent screening by psychiatrists in primary care settings may not be adequate enough to ensure appropriate management of depression by PCPs. Possible explanations may include time constraints during primary care visits, patient and/or physician reticence, and insufficient education of PCPs about depression.

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