Objective: The study examined whether employing mental health consumers as peer specialists in an intensive case management program can enhance outcomes for clients with serious mental illness.
Methods: A quasiexperimental, longitudinal, nonequivalent control group design was used to compare outcomes of clients assigned to three case management conditions: teams of case managers plus peer specialists, teams of case managers plus nonconsumer assistants, and case managers only. Outcomes were measured at baseline and at three six-month intervals. Repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to assess between-group differences.
Results: Complete data were available for 104 clients. Compared with clients in the other two groups, clients served by teams with peer specialists demonstrated greater gains in several areas of quality of life and overall reduction in the number of major life problems experienced. They also reported more frequent contact with their case managers and the largest gains of all three groups in the areas of self-image and outlook and social support. No differences in outcomes were found between clients served by teams with nonconsumer assistants and those served by case managers only.
Conclusions: Integration of peer specialists into intensive case management programs appears to lead to enhanced quality of life for clients and more effective case management.