A Cluster Randomized Trial of Adding Peer Specialists to Intensive Case Management Teams in the Veterans Health Administration

Published In: Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, v. 42, no. 1, Jan. 2015, p. 109-121

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2015

by Matthew Chinman, Rebecca S. Oberman, Barbara H. Hanusa, Amy N. Cohen, Michelle P. Salyers, Elizabeth W. Twamley, Alexander Young

Use of peer specialists (PSs)--individuals with serious mental illness who use their experiences to help others with serious mental illness--is increasing. However, their impact on patient outcomes has not been demonstrated definitively. This cluster randomized, controlled trial within the Veterans Health Administration compared patients served by three intensive case management teams that each deployed two PSs for 1 year, to the patients of three similar teams without PSs (Usual Care). All patients (PS group = 149, Usual Care = 133) had substantial psychiatric inpatient histories and a primary Axis 1 psychiatric disorder. Before and after the year PSs worked, patients were surveyed on their recovery, quality of life, activation (health self-management efficacy), interpersonal relations, and symptoms. Patients in the PS group improved significantly more (z = 2.00, df = 1, p = 0.05) than those receiving Usual Care on activation. There were no other significant differences. PSs helped patients become more active in treatment, which can promote recovery.

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