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Evidence-based Tools Improve Functioning of People with Bipolar Disorder


Contact: Heather Cobb,, 202.684.7457 x277

May 20, 2014 (Washington, D.C.) — People with bipolar disorder report improved functioning on 20 daily living skills after participating in an evidence-based clinical program.

The program, Advancing Standards of Care for People with Bipolar Disorder, was spearheaded by the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council), and supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. at 10 community mental health organizations. With targeted technical assistance from David Lloyd’s MTM Services, participating agencies were able to significantly improve communication, social interaction, and coping skills for persons recovering from bipolar disorder.

“Bipolar disorder can be a difficult illness to treat, leaving millions suffering in ways that are preventable,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council. “While society’s understanding of bipolar disorder has progressed, we can do more to help people recover. Advancing Standards of Care promotes practitioner-consumer partnerships and active disease management. Together, they measure progress and reinforce what works. It’s a true step forward for people with bipolar disorder and the organizations that serve them.”

The program revolved around two evidence-based tools: a group curriculum to help adults better understand and self-manage their mental health condition (i.e., Wellness Self Management) and a functional assessment tool that tracks a person’s ability to independently carry out everyday tasks (i.e., DLA-20).

According to one program participant, the program gave her confidence to face her diagnosis and fears. “I was afraid to talk to anyone before; I was having trouble at home. I’m now reconnected to my family and they are helping me get back on my feet. And, at Highland’s annual peer support banquet, I won the ‘best humor’ award.”

Participating healthcare providers said that the measurement tool gave them accurate and reliable data that supported transparency and accountability.

“Through this program, our clients reduced hospital use, increased self confidence, reconnected with their families, and went back to work,” said Beth Vice,  Rehabilitative Services Manager at Highland Rivers Health in Dalton, GA. “The changes spanned a wide range of areas that ensured a better quality of life.”

Cheryl Tschosik, Director of Psychosocial Services at Cherry Street Health Services in Grand Rapids, MI, said, “We have already expanded the program’s use to other areas with in our organization.” “The outcomes are undeniable, mainly because we know have such a invaluable way to track progress.”

Rosenberg also noted that the program’s success holds great potential for replication. She emphasized, “the participating mental health service organizations found the interventions effective, easy to administer, and results-oriented.”

Key Results:

  • There were statistically significant improvements in all DLA20 areas of functioning, as well as in the overall estimated Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF), which was generated by the DLA20 tool.
  • The subscales with the most consistent statistically significant improvements within individual organizations included: productivity, social network, coping skills, health practices, communication, managing money, problem solving, and leisure. Nine of the 10 organizations had statistically significant improvements in overall estimated GAF.
  • The 10 pilot sites started with a total of 378 clients in April 2010.
  • There was an overall attrition rate of 50%, consistent with community-based treatment protocols.
  • The average cumulative functional score from all participants rose from an initial 39.98 to 45.12 over six months.

The study also found a statistically significant improvement in the frequency of discussions related to health issues between participants and clinical staff, as well as

specific insights into improving the level of initial and ongoing engagement in group services for this population.

A full list of pilot sites in the Advancing Standards of Care for People with Bipolar Disorder program and a copy of the outcomes report program can be found at

About The National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with our 2,100+ member organizations employing 750,000 staff, we serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the more than eight million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. We are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S., which has trained 150,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities.

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