Intensive Care Coordination Saves Money for Youth With Mental Health Issues

Intensive care coordination helps to save money by serving youth with severe mental health in community-based settings rather than inpatient facilities, according to a study published by Georgia Health Policy Center researchers in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics. This is the first study to find evidence of longer-term spending reductions for up to a year after participation in a wraparound intervention.

High Fidelity Wraparound (Wrap) is an evidence-informed program that addresses the complex needs of youth with serious emotional disturbances through the use of intensive, customized care coordination among parents, multiple child-serving agencies, and providers. To qualify for wraparound services in Georgia, youth and emerging adults (aged 6 to 21 years) must have a primary mental health diagnosis that resulted in an institutional admission or imminent risk of  such an admission.

The study compared overall health care spending for youth who transitioned from institutional care into Wrap (the treatment group) versus youth not receiving Wrap (the control group). Changes in health care spending were compared for both groups for the year before and after Wrap participation.

The researchers found that Wrap participation led to an additional reduction of $1,130 in monthly health care spending compared to the control group in the post-period. For youth participating in Wrap, these spending reductions were the result of decreases in mental health inpatient spending and general outpatient spending.

“Youth participating in Wrap had much higher average monthly costs than youth in the control group for the year prior to entering Wrap, suggesting that the intervention targeted youth with the highest mental health utilization and likely more complex needs,” says Angela Snyder, director of health policy and financing at the Georgia Health Policy Center and the study’s lead author. “When costs are broken down by category, these savings were mainly driven by reductions in mental health inpatient spending and general outpatient spending. This suggests that Wrap may also have spillover benefits in terms of physical health care spending.

Study coauthors include James Marton, Ph.D., Susan McLaren, Bo Feng, and Mei Zhou, all from the Georgia Health Policy Center and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.

Click here to read the full study.