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July 8, 2018 by Bevin Croft et al | Psychiatric Services

Housing and Employment Outcomes for Mental Health Self-Direction Participants



In self-direction, participants control individual budgets, allocating service dollars according to needs and preferences within program parameters to meet self-defined recovery goals. Mental health self-direction is associated with enhanced wellness and recovery outcomes at lower or similar cost than traditional service arrangements. This study compared outcomes of housing independence and employment between individuals who participated in self-direction and those who did not.


This quasi-experimental study involved administrative data from 271 self-directing participants. Using coarsened exact matching with observed demographic, diagnostic, and other characteristics, the authors constructed a comparison group of non-self-directing individuals (N=1,099). The likelihood of achieving positive outcomes between first and last assessments during the approximately four-year study period was compared for self-directing and non-self-directing individuals.


Self-directing participants were more likely than nonparticipants to increase days worked for pay or maintain days worked at 20 or more days in the past 30 days (number needed to treat [NNT]=18; small effect size) and maintain or attain independent housing (NNT=16; small effect size), when analyses controlled, to the extent possible, for observed individual characteristics.


Based on data from the nation’s largest and longest-standing program of its kind, results suggest that mental health self-direction is associated with modest improvements or maintenance of positive outcomes in employment and housing independence. This research adds to the literature examining self-direction in the context of mental health and begins to fill the need for a greater understanding of self-direction’s relationship to outcomes of interest to service users and families, providers, and system administrators.


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