Context: Elderly persons with psychiatric disorders are less likely than younger adults to be diagnosed as having a mental disorder and receive needed mental health treatment. Lack of access to care is 1 possible cause of this disparity.
Objective: To determine whether a nurse-based mobile outreach program to seriously mentally ill elderly persons is more effective than usual care in diminishing levels of depression, psychiatric symptoms, and undesirable moves (eg, nursing home placement, eviction, board and care placement).
Design: Prospective randomized trial conducted between March 1993 and April 1996 to assess the effectiveness of the Psychogeriatric Assessment and Treatment in City Housing (PATCH) program.
Setting: Six urban public housing sites for elderly persons in Baltimore, Md.
Participants: A total of 945 (83%) of 1195 residents in the 6 sites underwent screening for psychiatric illness. Among those screened, 342 screened positive and 603 screened negative. All screen-positive subjects aged 60 years and older (n=310) and a 10% random sample of screen-negative subjects aged 60 years and older (n=61) were selected for a structured psychiatric interview. Eleven subjects moved or died; 245 (82%) of those who screened positive and 53 (88%) of those who screened negative were evaluated to determine who had a psychiatric disorder. Data were weighted to estimate the prevalence of psychiatric disorders at the 6 sites.
Intervention: Among the 6 sites, residents in 3 buildings were randomized to receive the PATCH model intervention, which included educating building staff to be case finders, performing assessment in residents' apartments, and providing care when indicated; and residents in the remaining 3 buildings were randomized to receive usual care (comparison group).
Main outcome measures: Number of undesirable moves and scores on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), a measure of depressive symptoms, and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), a measure of psychiatric symptoms and behavioral disorder, in intervention vs comparison sites.
Results: Based on weighted data, at 26 months of follow-up, psychiatric cases at the intervention sites had significantly lower (F(1)=31.18; P<.001) MADRS scores (9.1 vs 15.2) and significantly lower (F(1)=17.35; P<.001) BPRS scores (27.4 vs 33.9) than those at the nontreatment comparison sites. There was no significant difference between the groups in undesirable moves (relative risk, 0.97; 95% confidence interval, 0. 44-2.17).
Conclusions: These results indicate that the PATCH intervention was more effective than usual care in reducing psychiatric symptoms in persons with psychiatric disorders and those with elevated levels of psychiatric symptoms. JAMA. 2000;283:2802-2809