CARS: Computerized Assessment & Referral System

The Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS) is an easy to use software package that generates personalized clinical reports. CARS includes a mental health screener and a structured diagnostic mental health assessment adapted from an internationally-validated instrument. CARS packages its powerful mental health assessment tool in a user-friendly interface. It is a tool that laypeople can use easily to administer assessments. The CARS personalized clinical reports include 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 staff often are unable to screen clients for psychiatric disorders.

Research has shown that health care providers often make errors when identifying mental health problems, especially when those problems are not in their area of expertise. Standardized and automated assessment and diagnosis tools improve diagnostic accuracy. 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 many 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 personalized clinical reports that CARS generates assist staff by providing information about disorders and possible referral sources for their clients.