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Am Psychol. 1996 Jul;51(7):689-701.

A continuum of care. More is not always better.

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  • 1Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37212, USA.


This article describes an $80-million project designed to test whether a continuum of mental health and substance abuse services for children and adolescents is more cost-effective than services delivered in the more typical fragmented system. The study showed that an integrated continuum was successfully implemented that had better access, greater continuity of care, more client satisfaction, and treated children in less restrictive environments. However, the cost was higher, and clinical outcomes were no better than those at the comparison site. The article concludes that reform of mental health systems alone is unlikely to affect clinical outcomes. Cooperation is needed between mental health providers and researchers to better understand how to improve services delivered in the community.

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