Cost-benefit Analysis of a Preventive Intervention for Divorced Families

Reduction in Mental Health and Justice System Service Use Costs 15 Years Later

Published In: Prevention Science, v. 16, no. 4, May 2015, p. 586-596

Posted on RAND.org on November 20, 2014

by Patricia M. Herman, Nicole E. Mahrer, Sharlene A. Wolchik, Michele M. Porter, Sarah Jones, Irwin N. Sandler

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This cost-benefit analysis compared the costs of implementing the New Beginnings Program (NBP), a preventive intervention for divorced families to monetary benefits saved in mental healthcare service use and criminal justice system costs. NBP was delivered when the offspring were 9–12 years old. Benefits were assessed 15 years later when the offspring were young adults (ages 24–27). This study estimated the costs of delivering two versions of NBP, a single-component parenting-after-divorce program (Mother Program, MP) and a two-component parenting-after-divorce and child-coping program (Mother-Plus-Child Program, MPCP), to costs of a literature control (LC). Long-term monetary benefits were determined from actual expenditures from past-year mental healthcare service use for mothers and their young adult (YA) offspring and criminal justice system involvement for YAs. Data were gathered from 202 YAs and 194 mothers (75.4 % of families randomly assigned to condition). The benefits, as assessed in the 15th year after program completion, were $1630/family (discounted benefits $1077/family). These 1-year benefits, based on conservative assumptions, more than paid for the cost of MP and covered the majority of the cost of MPCP. Because the effects of MP versus MPCP on mental health and substance use problems have not been significantly different at short-term or long-term follow-up assessments, program managers would likely choose the lower-cost option. Given that this evaluation only calculated economic benefit at year 15 and not the previous 14 (nor future years), these findings suggest that, from a societal perspective, NBP more than pays for itself in future benefits.

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