A mental health care facility in the Austin area treats a large population that experiences homelessness while saving the local health care system millions annually, according to new peer-reviewed research from the University of Texas at Austin, published today in Psychiatric services.
Researchers know Dell Medical School and Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairscompared the costs per mental crisis episode at a psychiatric hospital ($ 6,382) or community hospital ($ 8,035) with the price per. episode at The Inn ($ 3,121), a 16-bed residential facility operated by Integrated care, Travis County Mental Health Authority. Results show that The Inn, which provides up to 7 days of support to adults recovering from a mental health crisis, saved the local health system between $ 1.87 million and $ 2.82 million annually from 2017 to 2019 compared to the same treatment and length of stay in hospital settings.
Services at The Inn include assistance in regaining stability, medication, 24/7 nursing services, alcohol and drug recovery support, and psychiatric support groups. Clients are also connected to other Integral Care programs and local resources for ongoing care and recovery assistance. Researchers say their findings suggest that places like The Inn, known as crisis housing treatment programs, can deliver improved patient outcomes while saving money for the healthcare sector.
“While the inn saves the health care system money while improving outcomes, health care is so fragmented that the provider, integrated care, does not benefit from the savings,” the co-author said. Stephen Strakowski, Vice Dean of Research and Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Dell Med. “Therefore, this fragmentation is split by the creation of more beneficial programs like this.”
The inn catered to 1,371 unique individuals and treated a total of 1,719 episodes during the three-year study period. Ninety percent of these patients lived below the federal poverty level, with more than half (54%) experiencing homelessness. If all the people treated at The Inn had been treated at a local psychiatric hospital instead, the total additional cost to the health care system would have been $ 5.61 million or $ 1.87 million annually. Similarly, if all the people treated at The Inn had instead been treated at a local community hospital, the total additional cost to the health care system would have been $ 8.45 million or $ 2.82 million annually.
“This was an inspiring study to do,” he said Todd Olmstead, Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s always nice to see programs that both help people recover and save money at the same time. Compared to hospitals, Integral Care carries lower costs – think ‘no CT or MRI machines or operating rooms’ – and has lower operating costs. And many studies have consistently shown that programs like The Inn typically have similar clinical outcomes and greater patient satisfaction compared to hospitalization. ”
Unlike most inpatient hospital settings, crisis hospital treatment centers provide a less restrictive, home-like atmosphere. Federal agencies and attorneys have identified housing programs as one of the most important crisis services in best practice continuity in caring for those experiencing mental health challenges. In fact, housing programs are part of an ongoing regional effort to redevelop Texas’ psychiatric hospital system. In the 38 counties of Austin State Hospital’s service area, unmet mental health needs accounted for $ 93 million in emergency department costs; $ 85 million in prison costs and an additional $ 9 million in costs for mental health court, probation and law enforcement in one year from 2015 to 2016.
“Integral Care has been providing crisis services in Travis County for over 50 years. Our goal is to offer the least restrictive level of care to help people rebuild their health and well-being after a mental health crisis, ”said Dr. Kathleen Casey, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Development at Integral Care. “Our partnership with the University of Texas at Austin not only allows us to highlight the cost-effectiveness of this care model, but also its positive impact on the health of those we serve. Community-based housing, such as The Inn, facilitates an ongoing relationship with people to better connect them from crisis stabilization to ongoing services that support their health and recovery. ”
Researchers say future work could use these findings to improve public spending and the efficiency of the mental health system.
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