Cost-effectiveness evaluation of three approaches to case management

Nancy Wolff


In this study the authors compared the cost-effectiveness of three approaches to case management for individuals with severe mental illness who were at risk for homelessness: assertive community treatment alone, assertive community treatment with community workers, and brokered case management (purchase of services). Individuals were randomly assigned to the three treatment conditions and followed for 18 months. Eligibility requirements included a severe DSM-III axis I diagnosis, such as schizophrenia, and either current homelessness or risk for homelessness based on prior history of homelessness. Participants were recruited from the emergency rooms and inpatient units of local psychiatric hospitals. Data on 85 people were available for analyses: 28 in assertive community treatment alone, 35 in assertive community treatment with community workers, and 22 receiving brokered case management (purchase of services). Clients assigned to the two assertive community treatment conditions had more contact with their treatment programs, experienced greater reductions in psychiatric symptoms, and were more satisfied with their treatment than clients in the brokered condition. There was no statistically significant difference between treatment conditions in terms of the total costs of treating the participants. However, the assertive community treatment conditions spent less money on inpatient services than brokered case management, but more on case management services and maintenance (i.e., food stamps, housing subsidies, and Supplemental Security Income payments). Assertive community treatment has better client outcomes at no greater cost and is, therefore, more cost-effective than brokered case management.

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