Cost-effectiveness of services and treatments for ambulatory dually diagnosed CMHC clients: Implications for managed care

Jay Johnson, The University of Texas School of Public Health


This paper reports a cost-effectiveness analysis of standard therapeutic interventions received by ambulatory dually diagnosed clients of a Community Mental Health Center (CMHC). For the purposes of this study dually diagnosed was defined as a DSM-III-R or IV diagnosis of a major mental disorder and a concomitant substance abuse disorder. The prevalence of dually diagnosed people among the mentally ill and their unique and problematic nature continues to challenge and encumber CMHCs and poses grave public health risks. An absence of research on these clients in community-based settings and the cost-effectiveness of their standard CMHC care has hindered the development of effective community-based intervention strategies. This exploratory and descriptive effort is a first step toward providing information on which to base programmatic management decisions. Data for this study were derived from electronic client records of a CMHC located in a large Southwestern, Sun-belt metropolitan area. A total of 220 records were collected on clients consecutively admitted during a two-and-one-half year period. Information was gathered profiling the clients' background characteristics, receipt of standard services and treatments, costs of the care they received, and length of CMHC enrollment and subsequent psychiatric hospitalizations. The services and treatments were compared with regard to their costs and predicted contributions toward maintaining clients in the community and out of public psychiatric hospitals. This study investigated: (1) the study groups' background, mental illness, and substance abuse characteristics; (2) types, extent, and patterns of their receipt of standard services and treatments; (3) associations between the receipt of services and treatments, community tenure, and risk of psychiatric hospitalization; and, (4) comparisons of average costs for services and treatments in terms of their contributions toward maintaining the clients in the community. The results suggest that substance abuse and other lifestyle factors were related to the dually diagnosed clients' admissions to the CMHC. The dually diagnosed clients' receipt of care was associated strongly with their insurability and global functioning. Medication Services were the most expensive yet effective service or treatment. Supported Education was the third most expensive and second most effective. Psychosocial Services, the second most expensive, were only effective in terms of maintaining clients in the community. Group Counseling, the fourth most expensive, had no effect on community maintenance and increased the risk of hospitalization when accompanied by Medication Services. Individual Counseling, the least expensive, had no effect on community maintenance. But it reduced the risk of hospitalization when accompanied by Medication Services. Networking/Referral, the fifth most expensive service or treatment, was ineffective. The study compared the results with findings in the literature. Implications are discussed regarding further research, study limitations, practical applications and benefits, and improvements to theoretical understandings, in particular, concepts underscoring Managed Care.

Subject Area

Public health|Mental health|Health care

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Jay, "Cost-effectiveness of services and treatments for ambulatory dually diagnosed CMHC clients: Implications for managed care" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9736141.