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A Randomized Trial of Assertive Community Treatment for Homeless Persons With Severe Mental Illness

Anthony F. Lehman, MD, MSPH; Lisa B. Dixon, MD; Eimer Kernan, MSW; Bruce R. DeForge, PhD; Leticia T. Postrado, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1997;54(11):1038-1043. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1997.01830230076011.
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Background:  This experiment evaluated the effectiveness of an innovative program of assertive community treatment (ACT) for homeless persons with severe and persistent mental illnesses.

Methods:  One hundred fifty-two homeless persons with severe and persistent mental illness were randomized to either the experimental ACT program or to usual community services. Baseline assessments included the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R, Quality-of-Life Interview, Colorado Symptom Index, and the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Health Survey. All assessments (except the Structured Clinical Interview) were repeated at the 2-, 6-, and 12-month follow-up evaluations.

Results:  Subjects in the ACT program used significantly fewer psychiatric inpatient days, fewer emergency department visits, and more psychiatric outpatient visits than the comparison subjects. The ACT subjects also spent significantly more days in stable community housing, and they experienced significantly greater improvements in symptoms, life satisfaction, and perceived health status.

Conclusions:  Relative to usual community care, the ACT program for homeless persons with severe and persistent mental illness shifts the locus of care from crisisoriented services to ongoing outpatient care and produces better housing, clinical, and life satisfaction outcomes.

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