Assertive Treatment as a regular function within mental health
Background The setting for providing assertive treatment (AT) has changed during the last 30 years in The Netherlands from assertive community treatment (ACT) and flexible assertive community treatment (FACT) to municipalities. The provision of AT varies between municipalities.
Aim Describing the concept of AT, the nature and size of the target group, and the reasons why people with severe mental illness (SMI) do not seek treatment and the place of AT in mental health care.
Method We used literature en available quantitative data.
Results AT regularly provided by mental health care is required in patients with SMI and social problems who do not seek treatment. When mental health care and social care collaborate on the level of the patient, treatment and handling of social problems can strengthen each other. This collaboration prevents discontinuity of care and breaking a trusting relationship because patients do not need to be transferred from social service to mental health care or vice versa. AT is on the continuum of voluntarily to compulsory care.AT provided by mental health care (usually provided by FACT-teams) is indicated for SMI patients with social problems and who do not seek treatment. The size of the target group is around 5000 – 20.000 patients in The Netherlands. Reasons not to seek help for people with SMI include within person factor, mental health related factors, or factors related to the interaction of SMI patients and mental health. We advocate for AT to become a regular part of mental health care, and for mental health care and social domain professionals to collaborate on case level. Acting this way, mental health treatment and addressing social problems can reinforce each other and discontinuity of care and breaking a trusting relationship can be prevented. AT is on the continuum of voluntary to involuntary treatment. That is why we suggest AT to be a better term than assertive outreach.
Conclusion It is a given fact that not all patients with SMI and social problems seek treatment. By making AT a regular part of mental health services, we prevent discontinuity of care and we fill the gap between voluntarily and compulsory care.