Chronicity Reconsidered

Improving Person-Environment Fit Through a Consumer-Run Service

Published In: Community Mental Health Journal, v. 37, no. 3, June 2001, p. 215-229

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2001

by Matthew Chinman, Richard Weingarten, David A. Stayner, Larry Davidson

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In the past, the term chronic referred to people who had serious mental illness and who typically received long-term care in a state mental hospital. Although this term recently has fallen out of favor, we resurrect the term here, not to revive a demeaning euphemism, but rather to redefine it as the result of a poor person-environment fit between the complex and challenging needs of those with serious psychiatric disorders and a community-based service system that often is ill-equipped to treat them. Previous research indicates that recurrent acute hospitalizations and an inability to establish or maintain tenure in the community may be due to a disconnection from community-based services and supports, social isolation, and demoralization. One promising approach to addressing these issues is that of peer support. To illustrate the potential utility of peer support in improving person-environment fit and decreasing the chronicity of the subsample of people who continue to have difficulty in establishing viable footholds in the community, we describe a peer support-based program, the Welcome Basket, developed, staffed, and managed entirely by mental health consumers. Preliminary analyses that evaluate Welcome Basket's effectiveness are included, and we discuss the implications of these data for future research and program development in this area.

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