Cover: Perspectives on Financing Strategies for Evidence-Based Treatment Implementation in Youth Mental Health Systems

Perspectives on Financing Strategies for Evidence-Based Treatment Implementation in Youth Mental Health Systems

Published in: The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, Volume 26, Issue 3, pages 115-130 (2023)

Posted on rand.org Oct 13, 2023

by Maddison North, Alex R. Dopp, Jane Frances Silovsky, Marylou Gilbert, Jeanne S. Ringel

Background

Evidence-based treatments (EBTs) are critical to effectively address mental health problems among children and adolescents, but costly for mental health service agencies to implement and sustain. Financing strategies help agencies overcome cost-related barriers by obtaining financial resources to support EBT implementation and/or sustainment.

Aims

We sought to (i) understand how youth mental health system decision-makers involved with EBT implementation and sustainment view key features (e.g., relevance, feasibility) that inform financing strategy selection and (ii) compare service agency, funding agency, and intermediary representative perspectives.

Method

Two surveys were disseminated to 48 representatives across U.S. youth mental health service agencies, funding agencies, and intermediaries who were participating in a larger study of financing strategies. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered on 23 financing strategies through quantitative ratings and open-ended responses. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and rapid content analysis.

Results

The financing strategies rated as most relevant include braided funding streams, contracts for EBTs, credentialing/rostering providers, fee-for-service reimbursement (regular and increased), and grant funding. All other strategies were unfamiliar to 1/3 to 1/2 of participants. The six strategies were rated between somewhat and quite available, feasible, and effective for EBT sustainment. For sustaining different EBT components (e.g., delivery, materials), the mix of financing strategies was rated as somewhat adequate. Qualitative analysis revealed challenges with strategies being non-recurring or unavailable in representatives' regions. Ratings were largely similar across participant roles, though funding agency representatives were the most familiar with financing strategies.

Discussion

Despite the breadth of innovative financing strategies, expert representatives within the youth mental health services ecosystem had limited knowledge of most options. Experts relied on strategies that were familiar but often did not adequately support EBT implementation or sustainment. These findings underscore more fundamental issues with under-resourced mental health systems in the U.S.; financing strategies can help agencies navigate EBT use but must be accompanied by larger-scale system reforms. Limitations include difficulties generalizing results due to using a small sample familiar with EBTs, high agreement as a potential function of snowball recruiting, and limited responses to the open-ended survey questions.

Implications for Health Care Provision and Use

Although EBTs have been found to effectively address mental health problems in children and adolescents, available strategies for financing their implementation and sustainment in mental health systems are insufficient. This constraint prevents many children and adolescents from receiving high-quality services.

Implications for Health Policies

Financing strategies alone cannot solve systematic issues that prevent youth mental health service agencies from providing EBTs. Policy changes may be required, such as increased financial investment from the U.S. government into mental health services to support basic infrastructure (e.g., facility operations, measuring outcomes).

Implications for Further Research

Future work should examine expert perspectives on EBT financing strategies in different contexts (e.g., substance use services), gathering targeted feedback on financing strategies that are less well known, and exploring topics such as strategic planning, funding stability, and collaborative decision-making as they relate to EBT implementation and sustainment.

Research conducted by

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