AIMS Center History

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Seattle and the University of Washington offer a rich environment where people think collaboratively about how to improve access to mental health care. The AIMS Center evolved in this environment, drawing upon Wayne Katon's early work in the treatment of anxiety and depression in primary care and Ed Wagner and Michael Von Korff's work in chronic disease care. The AIMS Center focuses on getting proven research ideas out into the real world where they can help large numbers of people.

1990 -- 1998

Wayne Katon begins looking at the treatment of anxiety and depression in primary care and begins the first trials of collaborative depression care. Ed Wagner and Michael Von Korff at the Group Health Research Institute develop the chronic care model -- a proactive, organized approach to treating chronic illnesses.

1998 -- 2002

The IMPACT (Improving Mood: Providing Access to Collaborative Treatment) study takes place in 18 primary care clinics in 5 states, the largest study of depression treatment to date, with a focus on depressed, older adults. Half of the patients were randomly assigned to receive the depression treatment usually offered by the clinic and half of the patients were randomly assigned to receive collaborative care for depression, known as IMPACT. A patient registry was developed for the trial that tracked and measured patient goals and clinical outcomes, and facilitated treatment adjustment if a patient was not improving as expected. Patients who received IMPACT care (collaborative care) were twice as likely to show improvement. Collaborative care more than doubled the effectiveness of depression treatment and reduced total healthcare costs at the same time. Results are published in JAMA in 2002. The principal investigator is Jürgen Unützer.


After the success of the IMPACT trial, the IMPACT Implementation Center is created with funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation to help organizations put IMPACT (collaborative care) in place.


Growing evidence shows that IMPACT care not only works for depressed, older adults, but for all age groups and for many other common mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, PTSD, and co-morbid medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes. To acknowledge this depth of evidence and to improve the reach of collaborative care to other populations, the IMPACT Implementation Center becomes the AIMS (Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions) Center.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) coins the term Triple Aim: improving the individual experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita costs of care for populations. Collaborative care programs like IMPACT have been proven to achieve all three.


The AIMS Center continues to push the boundaries of care with the goal of creating opportunities where medical and behavioral health professionals work together to provide collaborative, patient-centered care. We have also worked with over 6,000 clinicians in 1,000 clinics around the world to help implement collaborative care.