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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

August 19, 2002


CHARLOTTE, NC -- Mecklenburg County Area Mental Health (AMH) has a new community-based team approach to treating people diagnosed with co-occurring disorders such as mental illness and substance abuse. 

A $1.5 million federal grant allowed AMH to develop the new team, which will use an approach that aggressively treats people with the co-occurring disorders. The program welcomed its first clients in early August. 

"The population we identified is adults with severe and persistent mental illness and who also are active substance abusers," said Jane Peck, an advanced practice nurse who is the program supervisor. "Our goal is to provide integrated treatment , that is mental health and substance abuse treatment concurrently, while also taking time to get to know them and establish relationships. These are folk who have had numerous treatment failures in the traditional programs." 

The Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) model uses an interdisciplinary group of clinicians including a psychiatrist, case coordinators, nurses and licensed clinical staff. The team provides intense case management and work together to develop a plan that best meets the client's needs. Once a client's needs become less intense, he or she can return to traditional case management, or a more appropriate level of care. 

ACT will be an addition to the substance abuse programs offered in the community. The plan is to add a substance abuse track to the existing partial hospital programs.  Success will be measured by reductions in the frequency and amount of substance abuse use, as well as by increased ability to function in the community.  Supporters say that ACT will likely translate into cost savings because of fewer emergency room visits, hospitalizations, jail time, and detoxification services.  

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded the grant that will be distributed in $500,000 increments over three years. SAMHSA is charged with improving the quality and availability of prevention, treatment and rehabilitative services for substance abuse and mental illness.

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