A Crisis in Search of Data: The Revolving Door of Serious Mental Illness in Super Utilization – 2017-04

Individuals with the serious mental illness are well known to be grossly overrepresented in the nation’s criminal justice and social safety-net systems. Making up barely 3% of the adult population, those with diagnoses of schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder account for far greater proportions of the people served by law enforcement, housed in correctional facilities, presenting in hospital emergency departments and living on the streets.

The Treatment Advocacy Center set out in 2015 to identify the role and cost of this population in the phenomenon known as super utilization: the relatively frequent use of high-cost public services by relatively few people.

The result, A Crisis in Search of Data, represents the first published effort to systematically and comprehensively survey what government, academic and mass media sources have learned and reported about this public health emergency and its human and economic costs.

Top Takeaway

While widely recognized by service providers, the role of serious mental illness in high utilization is largely uncharted and its costs unknown and unknowable at the state or federal level from the data currently being collected. This dooms policymakers to making critical decisions without essential information. It also severely limits their ability to make decisions based on intersystem costs and benefits.

Treatment Advocacy Center
April 2017