Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI) individuals have mental illnesses that are persistent, serious, and disruptive of everyday life, unless controlled. The majority are served through state- and/or federally-funded programs. For the 22,454 seriously mentally ill people receiving mental health services from the state of Arizona (ADHS/DBHS 1998), state legislators are the "insurer" determining whether the perceived value of medications and treatments is worth the anticipated cost.
Pharmacological breakthroughs are creating medications capable of controlling many of the symptoms associated with mental illness. More breakthroughs are expected to occur. Assuming technology continues to advance at a rapid rate, initial debates over whether to adopt and pay for new psychotropic medications will inevitably be followed by debates over whether to continue paying for them in succeeding years.
This policy brief is intended to inform that ongoing discussion in Arizona.
Four general areas are addressed:
An overview of current research on the impact and cost of selected types of newer medications used to treat serious mental illness.
A brief discussion about the extent to which Arizona SMI patients have access to newer medications and medical care.
A proposed framework for assessing the perceived value of newly developed medications that moves the discussion beyond the consideration of cost alone.
Summary issues that ought to be addressed by health policy leaders for both state-funded and privately insured plans as they consider the uses and cost of the new psychotropic medications.
The paper's content reflects the results of interviews with selected Arizona mental health administrators, advocates and experts, as well as a review of over 80 articles and papers from professional journals and associations.