Reducing the time it takes for a person experiencing psychosis to get treatment is the goal of two new mental health pilot projects in the Twin Cities.
Called Coordinated Specialty Care, the pilot projects will serve people 15 to 40 years old with early signs of psychosis. The word “psychosis” is used to describe conditions that affect the mind when there has been some loss of contact with reality. Psychosis is treatable, and studies have shown that early treatment increases the chance of a successful recovery.
“It’s critical that people who are first experiencing psychosis get the right care quickly,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper. “This research-based program is an exciting new approach that will help people when they need it most.”
Three organizations will receive up to $2.97 million in federal funds through the State of Minnesota. Offering the new service will be Hennepin County Medical Center with one team and the University of Minnesota at their Psychiatry Clinic in St. Louis Park with two teams. Each team can serve up to 30 people.
The third organization receiving funding, the Minnesota Center for Chemical and Mental Health, will provide technical support, including training, consultation and community information sessions.
“The need for treatment for first episode psychosis is great,” says Piper Meyer-Kalos, principal investigator and executive director of the Minnesota Center for Chemical and Mental Health. “Currently, people experiencing psychosis for the first time are typically waiting well over a year to get treatment.”
Psychosis often begins when a person is in their late teens to mid-20s but can occur into middle adulthood. Psychosis can be a symptom of a mental illness such as schizophrenia or caused by medications, alcohol or drug abuse. Three out of 100 people will experience psychosis at some time in their lives, and about 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the U.S. experience first episode psychosis each year.
Coordinated Specialty Care programs are the result of a 2008 large-scale research project by the National Institute of Mental Health. Research showed that this care model is more effective than the usual treatment approaches, treatment is most effective when received sooner, and treatment for psychosis can be delivered successfully in the community.
“Our goal is to promote optimal brain health through innovative treatments, while also supporting the individual and their family members in all of their psychological needs,” said Dr. Sophia Vinogradov, head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “We team up with people experiencing psychosis, their families and the community to help us determine better and more effective ways to understand their health needs and to promote their well-being.”
Coordinated Specialty Care uses a team of specialists who offer psychotherapy, medication management, family education, coping skills training and education. They may also offer case management and peer support.
“We provide an important safety net role for the county and the state. In that role, we often are the first contact for people having their first episode of psychosis,” said Dr. Marielle Demarais, clinical psychologist for Hennepin County Medical Center. “Our model of care seeks to help these individuals live the life they want at work, school, and with friends and family.”
Funding for the program is through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA recently required that states set aside 10 percent of their Community Mental Health Services Block Grant to address these needs.
Symptoms of psychosis may include:
- Delusions or false and persistent beliefs that are not part of the individual’s culture. For example, people with schizophrenia may believe that their thoughts are being broadcast on the radio.
- Hallucinations that include hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things that others cannot. People with the disorder may hear voices that talk to them or order them to do things.
- Disorganized speech that involves difficulty organizing thoughts, stopping suddenly and without explanation in the middle of a sentence, and making up nonsensical words.
- Seeming extremely disorganized or unaware of their surroundings.