OBJECTIVE: This study examined whether employing mental health consumers as consumer-providers in assertive community treatment teams can enhance outcomes for clients with severe mental illness.
METHODS: In a prospective longitudinal study, presence of consumer-providers and outcomes of 530 clients with severe mental illness in 20 outpatient teams were assessed at baseline and at one-year and two-year follow-ups. Measures included the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales (HoNOS), the Camberwell Assessment of Need Short Assessment Schedule (CANSAS), the Working Alliance Scale, the number of hospital days, and the number of days of homelessness. Multilevel regression was used with the independent variables consumer-provider presence, time of measurement, and their interaction.
RESULTS: A positive association was found between consumer-provider presence and improvements in functioning on the HoNOS (p=.020), met needs in relation to personal recovery (p=.044), unmet needs in relation to personal recovery (p=.008), and number of homeless days (p<.001). A negative association was found for consumer-provider presence and the number of hospital days (p=.019).
CONCLUSIONS: Consumer-providers are important participants in outpatient teams serving clients with severe mental illnesses, although integrating these providers as part of a team is a slow process. (Authors)