What is Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) for people with severe mental illness?

Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is a program that provides services to individuals in the community who have severe and persistent mental illness, particularly schizophrenia spectrum disorders and bipolar disorders. These individuals typically have major difficulties functioning independently in the community, are high hospital and crisis service utilizers, have difficulties successfully participating in other community-based mental health services and have other complex needs such as co-occurring substance use, complex medical needs, homelessness or involvement in the criminal justice system. Consumers of ACT services may experience a high vulnerability to stress, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, difficulties learning and deficiencies in basic life skills.

ACT Services

Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with multiple community visits per week in addition to crisis response services. Visits are provided in the client or family home or other place of their choice. ACT utilizes a team approach consisting of multi-disciplinary mental health professionals who provide treatment, support and rehabilitation for clients. This includes psychiatric providers, team leaders, administrative assistants, social workers/counselors, peer specialists. vocational/employment specialists and substance use specialists. The client is seen as a part of the team as they play an active role in their recovery and treatment. ACT has no preset limit on how long clients receive services and teams are the fixed point of responsibility for all client care needs. There are daily meetings where treatment and goals are reviewed. Areas of assistance include physical and mental health care, medications, substance use, activities of daily living, housing, family life, employment, benefits and managing finances. The goal of services is to help clients maintain a life of their choosing in their community of choice.

Benefits of ACT

ACT engages clients in their recovery, helps them to reach their goals and assists them in living in a community of their choosing. Outcomes of ACT treatment include increased mental health stability, less time spent in the hospital, reduced hospital costs, increased medication adherence, reduced severity of symptoms, increased housing stability and overall improvement in quality of life.

For more information, see SAMSHA’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) Kit.

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