OBJECTIVE: To describe a national effort to disseminate and implement an evidence-based collaborative care management model for patients with both depression and poorly controlled diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease across multiple, real-world diverse clinical practice sites. METHODS: Goals for the initiative were as follows: (1) to improve depression symptoms in 40% of patients, (2) to improve diabetes and hypertension control rates by 20%, (3) to increase provider satisfaction by 20%, (4) to improve patient satisfaction with their care by 20% and (5) to demonstrate cost savings. A Care Management Tracking System was used for collecting clinical care information to create performance measures for quality improvement while also assessing the overall accomplishment of these goals. RESULTS: The Care of Mental, Physical and Substance-use Syndromes (COMPASS) initiative spread an evidence-based collaborative care model among 18 medical groups and 172 clinics in eight states. We describe the initiative's evidence-base and methods for others to replicate our work. CONCLUSIONS: The COMPASS initiative demonstrated that a diverse set of health care systems and other organizations can work together to rapidly implement an evidence-based care model for complex, hard-to-reach patients. We present this model as an example of how the time gap between research and practice can be reduced on a large scale.