An Analysis of Integrative Management Strategies used by Clients at ACT of Kalamazoo, Inc.
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In the United States, an astonishing one in four people has some form of mental illness (Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2000). Considering how rapidly the population is growing, the demands upon mental health services are expected to increase. In some situations, this increase has resulted in pressure to find quick and effective mental health treatment programs that can be provided at a minimal cost to both the clients and insurance providers. ACT of Kalamazoo, Inc. is an example of a mental health care organization whose treatment programs have been shown to reduce cost. Not only is their Assertive Community Treatment program (ACT) cost-effective, but they have also been able to reduce costs further by implementing a low-intensity program for the clients who were no longer in need of the intensive care they once received in the general program. ACT of Kalamazoo, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose services are designed to integrate people with mental illnesses into the larger community. The agency was created in 1980 to treat individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses. The clients are treated by multidisciplinary teams which, research has been shown to be a very effective treatment approach (Test & Stein, 2000). Since its creation, the Kalamazoo ACT program has been aware that clients' ability to manage the symptoms of their illness varies from person to person. The agency felt that clients who are successfully managing their illnesses no longer required the high-intensity treatment program that was provided by the ACT teams. Therefore, in 1995, ACT of Kalamazoo, Inc. created a new low-intensity treatment program called Community Treatment Team (CTT) for these clients. In the process of recovery, clients learn strategies which help them manage the symptoms of their illness and the daily challenges they face. The management of these challenges has been shown to play a crucial role in the recovery process. Although it is apparent that mental health clients use a wide variety of strategies to manage their illness and overcome daily challenges, the exact nature of these strategies has not been extensively researched by scholars. Our objective was to obtain personal accounts of the strategies used by clients from both the ACT and CTT programs at ACT of Kalamazoo, Inc. to manage their illness. In so doing, we hoped that we might determine the extent to which transitioning clients to lower-intensity programs is an effective strategy agencies can use to increase clients' success at managing their illness and their lives. By interviewing clients from both groups, we identified a variety of strategies that have helped CTT clients deal with their illnesses more effectively than ACT clients.