NYS Office of Mental Health Awarded $1.9 Million Grant to Research and Pilot ACT Step-Down Approaches
The Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) has been awarded a $1.9 million grant to develop, implement, and evaluate step-down approaches for the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) model. Often described as “a hospital without walls,” ACT programs are mobile teams of mental health professionals who provide intensive but flexible services and treatments, often where people live and work. The new project will promote recovery and positive outcomes for ACT recipients and will also increase capacity of ACT teams to serve high-need individuals. Funding is being provided by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, which has as one of it’s focus areas, addressing health disparities, including among people with serious mental illness, through public-private partnerships that strengthen and integrate community healthcare worker capacity and supportive services in the U.S.
OMH Commissioner Michael Hogan, Ph.D., said, “This grant builds on New York’s commitment to providing evidence-based and recovery-oriented practices in mental health. People can and do recover from serious mental illness. Recovery is usually not ‘cure,’ but a personal process of overcoming illness and disability. Therefore developing programs that provide good, flexible services for people who are ready to move beyond assertive community treatment will help consumers in their recovery journey.”
“The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is pleased to partner with the New York State Office of Mental Health, and we believe this initiative will provide the chance for innovations in mental health services to be explored and evaluated,” said John Damonti, president of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.
ACT is one of six evidence-based practices for serious mental illness endorsed by the federal government and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. ACT provides improved consumer outcomes, and is cost effective when delivered to high-need individuals, reducing episodes of hospitalization and increasing successful life in the community. OMH has implemented 78 ACT teams since 2003.
The ACT model was developed decades ago to provide a community based alternative to long term institutional care. The very first ACT team was a team of doctors, nurses and other staff who moved out of Mendota State Hospital with the patients they cared for. As a “hospital without walls,” ACT was conceived as a life-long service that helped to promote community integration. Dr. Robert Drake, Professor of Psychiatry at Dartmouth and a national leader in ACT and evidence-based practices said, “The mental health service system has changed dramatically since the 1970s, and so has our understanding of recovery for people with mental illness. Many elements of the ACT model have not been well specified, including the use of recovery enhancing practices, and step-down or graduation of clients. This grant offers the best opportunity we are likely to have to study new models of transitioning individuals into the community.”
Specific goals of the project are to develop and pilot transitional approaches for ACT step-down/graduation based on clinical evidence and consumer needs; to identify and promote changes in regulations and policies needed to support ACT step-down/graduation approaches; and to develop a training package to support wide scale dissemination. The last two years of the five-year grant will focus on developing sustaining mechanisms and disseminating the approaches studied.
Dr. Lloyd Sederer, OMH Medical Director, said, “This innovative project will incorporate recovery and community integration goals into assertive community treatment to ensure that services are targeted to consumers’ needs over time. It will enhance the flexibility of New York State’s continuum of services for those with serious mental illness.”
The project calls for extensive collaboration among stakeholders, including state and local government, national experts, researchers, consumers, agency leadership, and clinicians.
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said, “This project is a wonderful example of the public-academic partnership that the recently established Columbia University/NYSPI Division of Mental Health Services and Policy Research is charged to support. We look forward to collaborating in all phases of the project, and believe that it will inform public mental health services not only in New York State but nationwide as well.”
Contact: Jill Daniels, OMH Public Affairs, 518-474-6540