, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 141-159
Date: 30 Sep 2012

Assertive Community Treatment for People with Severe Mental Illness

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Abstract

This article describes the critical ingredients of the assertive community treatment (ACT) model for people with severe mental illness and then reviews the evidence regarding its effectiveness and cost effectiveness. ACT is an intensive mental health program model in which a multidisciplinary team of professionals serves patients who do not readily use clinic-based services, but who are often at high risk for psychiatric hospitalization. Most ACT contacts occur in community settings. ACT teams have a holistic approach to services, helping with medications, housing, finances and everyday problems in living. ACT differs conceptually and empirically from traditional case management approaches.

ACT is one of the best-researched mental health treatment models, with 25 randomized controlled trials evaluating its effectiveness. ACT substantially reduces psychiatric hospital use, increases housing stability, and moderately improves symptoms and subjective quality of life. In addition, ACT is highly successful in engaging patients in treatment. Research also suggests that the more closely case management programs follow ACT principles, the better the outcomes.

ACT services are costly. However, studies have shown the costs of ACT services to be offset by a reduction in hospital use in patients with a history of extensive hospital use.

The ACT model has been hugely influential in the mental health services field. ACT is significant because it offers a clearly defined model, and is clinically appealing to practitioners, financially appealing to administrators and scientifically appealing to researchers.