Initiation of assertive community treatment among veterans with serious mental illness: Client and program factors

John F. McCarthy, Marcia Valenstein, Lisa Dixon, Stephanie Visnic, Frederic C. Blow, Eric Slade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: Ensuring equitable access to mental health services is a national priority. The authors examined assertive community treatment (ACT) services initiation in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system among program-eligible patients. Methods: The VA's National Psychosis Registry included 6,540 patients who met program eligibility criteria (mental illness diagnosis and prior hospitalization) in fiscal year (FY) 2003 (FY 2003) and had not received VA ACT services in FY 2001-FY 2003. Receipt of VA ACT services during FY 2004 was assessed with generalized estimating equations. Independent variables included age, gender, race and ethnicity, marital status, service-connected disability benefits, substance use disorder, psychiatric inpatient days in FY 2003, distance to the nearest facility with a VA ACT team, presence of an onsite team at the facility where the last VA psychiatric hospitalization occurred, and number of open slots with the nearest ACT team. Results: A total of 452 of the eligible patients (7%) received VA ACT services in FY 2004. In multivariate analyses, older age was associated with reduced odds of receiving ACT services (odds ratio [OR]=.92 per five years); being female (OR=1.86) and having schizophrenia (OR=1.64) were positively associated with ACT services initiation. Individuals living farther from ACT sites were less likely to receive ACT services (OR=.95 per ten miles). The marginal effects of distance were most substantial in the first 30 miles and beyond 100 miles. Conclusions: Most patients who were eligible for yet not already receiving VA ACT services went without these services in FY 2004. Geographic distance limited services initiation. Focused efforts are needed to enhance ACT services initiation and delivery, particularly for individuals in remote locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-201
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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