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Mandated Mental Health Treatment Programs Save Money

State-funded outpatient programs cut hospitalizations, costs among severely mentally ill

THURSDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Mandated, publicly-funded mental health outpatient commitment programs significantly reduce psychiatric care costs in the first two years following implementation, according to a study published online July 30 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

In order to conduct a cost analysis, Jeffrey W. Swanson, Ph.D., from Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues utilized 36 months of data for 634 assisted outpatient treatment participants and 255 voluntary recipients of intensive community-based treatment in New York City and in five counties elsewhere in New York State. Costs for program administration, legal and court services, mental health and other medical treatment, and criminal justice involvement were based on administrative, budgetary, and service data claims.

The researchers found that net costs declined 50 percent in New York City the first year after assisted outpatient treatment began and 62 percent in the five-county sample. There were additional 13 and 27 percent declines in the second year in New York City and the five-county sample, respectively. There were 40 and 44 percent increases in psychotropic drug costs in the city and five-county sample, respectively, during the first year after initiation. The cost declines associated with assisted outpatient treatment were about twice as large as those seen for voluntary services, although declines were significant for both assisted outpatient treatment and voluntary participation in intensive services.

"Assisted outpatient treatment requires a substantial investment of state resources but can reduce overall service costs for persons with serious mental illness," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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