To describe the profile of the intensive use of mental health services over a 4-year period in a population of 1.1 million people.
Data obtained from computerized hospital separation records and physician reimbursement claims were combined to form patient-based histories of mental health care utilization. Users of mental health services in a 24-month period were hierarchically classified as having a psychotic disorder (ICD-9-CM 295-299) or a nonpsychotic disorder (ICD-9-CM 300-301, 306-309, 311). Intensive use was defined as 12 or more contact months or a minimum of 2 episodes of therapy in the 24-month period. The cohort of intensive users were followed over the subsequent 24-month interval to describe the persistence of intensive use.
In the initial observation periods, intensive users constituted 27.4% of individuals in treatment for psychotic disorder and 4.4% of persons in treatment for nonpsychotic disorder. These 2 groups, which represent 7.4% of all users of mental health care, were responsible for 53% of physician services, 72.7% of contacts with psychiatrists, and 64.4% of acute psychiatric bed days in the initial period. In the follow-up period, intensive use status was replicated by 44.6% of the cohort.
The diagnostic and therapeutic characteristics of intensive users of mental health services are heterogeneous. There is substantial persistence of intensive mental health service use over time.