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Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate

Can We Prevent Disability from Serious Mental Illnesses?

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Examining Outcomes of New Youth Psychosis Treatments

Last month, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing welcomed Dr. John Kane from North Shore LIJ to present on the recently published clinical outcomes that resulted from the National Institute for Mental Health’s (NIMH’s) Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) study. Dr. Kane, one of the lead researchers involved in the RAISE Early Treatment Program study, presented concrete data on this pioneering intervention for people that experience psychosis related to a schizophrenia diagnosis, which has resulted in remarkable outcomes for individuals who—up until this point in history—would have likely ended up permanently disabled and unable to participate in a lifetime of quality everyday living.

Psychosis is a blanket term used to describe symptoms of the onset of a serious mental illness, like bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, most mental health clinicians find that individuals with first episode psychosis experience warning signs of illness during adolescence and early adulthood. Yet, of the majority of persons diagnosed with serious mental illness who exhibit symptoms between the ages of 16 and 25, only about 50 percent get any type of diagnosis, referral or treatment.

Dr. Kane and his colleagues’ analysis examined outcomes resulting from implementation of the NAVIGATE model of clinical intervention at 34 different clinics throughout the United States for young people experiencing a first-episode of psychosis. NAVIGATE is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, team-based treatment approach for first-episode psychosis that was derived from NIMH’s RAISE study. NAVIGATE has been successfully implemented at dozens of provider organizations throughout the U.S.

Dr. Kane followed the treatment of more than 400 individuals that had experienced a first episode of psychosis receiving care at NAVIGATE clinics. Most of the individuals involved in the study were in their early 20s, mostly males, not working or in school and most had a schizophrenia diagnosis. According to the October 2015 American Journal of Psychiatry, the 223 original NAVIGATE participants remained in treatment longer, experienced greater improvement in quality of life and psychopathology and experienced greater involvement in work and school when compared to the 181 participants in traditional schizophrenia treatment programs. And, 55 percent of NAVIGATE participants met with a provider that helped them get a job in the community or further their education. This is encouraging news for professionals working with individuals with serious mental illnesses, as a schizophrenia diagnosis has traditionally led far too many individuals down a path of homelessness, jail or death.

The team of researchers Dr. Kane managed found that the coordinated specialty care model within NAVIGATE can be successfully implemented in a real-world setting with significant symptom improvement among these participants.

Now, given passage of the omnibus appropriations bill, states have new opportunities to invest further in these types of interventions. The bill increases the set aside for early interventions from five percent to 10 percent. What do you hope your state does with the funding?

Editor’s Note: The 2016 National Council Conference features an entire track on Early Intervention for Psychosis. Learn more and register here: