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Article Abstract

Online ISSN: 1099-176X    Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 2, Issue 1, 1999. Pages: 9-12

Published Online: 8 Jun 1999

Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

State-of-the-art challenges for mental health services research
Susan M. Essock *
Division of Health Services Research, Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029-6574, USA
email: Susan M. Essock (SusanEssock@smtplink.mssm.edu)

*Correspondence to Susan M. Essock, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, One Gustave L.Levy Place, Box 1230, New York, NY 10029-6574, USA

Conference: NIMH Conference on Mental Health Services Research, 1995 to 1995.

Conference: NIMH Conference on Mental Health Services Research, 1997 to 1997.

Funded by:
 NIMH; Grant Number: R01-MH52872
 NIAAA; Grant Number: R01-AA10265-04
 SAMHSA; Grant Number: UD9-MH51958
 Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services


Research-based, state-of-the-art services for people with serious mental disorders would consist of demonstrably effective treatments, organized synergistically, and financed in ways that create incentives to provide such treatment. While research exists in these domains of treatment, organization and financing, this research base contains significant gaps, and what is known frequently neither informs policy making nor enters practice.

The NIMH services-research portfolio has identified successful patient-level and system-level interventions for people with serious mental disorders, but much of this research has yet to make its way into practice. Similarly, while we have made progress in asking "what is good care?", we have much less information about the answers to "what constitutes an adequate try?". Writing a prescription for an efficacious medication does not constitute an adequate trial of that medication. Similarly, offering people boring psychosocial rehabilitation programs does not constitute an adequate try of promoting recovery via rehabilitation services, but what does? Defining what constitutes an adequate try can be a way of allocating scarce resources or it can be a polite way of defining when a system gets to give up on someone. As state governments move to contract with managed care entities for services for Medicaid beneficiaries, one of the great contracting challenges is defining and monitoring the provision of what constitutes an adequate try.

To obtain better value for our health care expenditures, we need to find ways to get what we know works into practice, whether we are contracting for services or deciding which clinical therapies to pursue. For example, problem-oriented family therapy has been shown to improve clinical outcomes for people with schizophrenia, yet such interventions are rare in practice. We also need to pay more attention to the quality of the clinical care actually being delivered - not what was prescribed, nor what the clinician was trained in, nor what the job description was, but what actually is occurring. Figuring out how to contract for and disseminate efficacious treatments so that they occur and are effective in real-world settings is critically important yet is a largely unexplored area of services research. We need to answer both "what is good care?" and "how do we get it to happen?". Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Received: 20 July 1998; Accepted: 20 November 1998