HHS Study Look at Peer Services' Role in Reducing Inpatient, ER Visits

NYAPRS Note: The US Department of Health and Human Services recently released an assessment of the capability of innovative peer support service models to reduce preventable acute hospitalization and readmissions.

The study conducted phone interviews with Baltic Street, AEH, Housing Options Made Easy and Projects to Empower and Organize the Psychiatrically Labeled (PEOPLe, Inc.) in New York and the Mental Health Association of Southeast Pennsylvania.

It took a deeper dive via site visits at

  • Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN)
  • New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc. (NYAPRS)
  • Optum Behavioral Health Pierce County RSN in Washington and
  • Recovery Innovations in Arizona.

You can see the study at https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/205411/PeerSupServ.pdf. Here are some summary findings.

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An Assessment Of Innovative Models Of Peer Support Services In Behavioral Health To Reduce Preventable Acute Hospitalization And Readmissions

Prepared for Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

By Westat December 2015

“This study has examined the role of PSS and their potential for reducing unnecessary psychiatric hospital admissions, readmissions, and avoidable ED utilization. A framework for the types of peer services that might impact these outcomes has been developed. These include crisis respite programs, level of care transition programs, and community-based recovery supports. Four peer-delivered service organizations have been examined to address the focus of this study.

The findings suggest that a principal goal of many of the PSS programs reviewed is to support recovery, rather than to specifically reduce utilization of high-cost health care services. However, all of the programs reviewed do see improved health outcomes and lower costs of services as fundamentally important. While the outcomes reported

are based on limited and variable rigor and sophistication, they do yield some evidence that suggests that these PSS programs likely have significant impact toward reducing utilization of hospital and ED services.

Significant challenges to the measurement of outcomes among the PSS programs reviewed are noted. These include the lack of structured service models, funding models that do not support staffing and administrative resources to effectively measure outcomes, and limitations in the integration of peer services within overall health systems that complicate the evaluation of the effectiveness of these services. More rigorous and systematic evaluation research of PSS is needed and can help document the promising findings reported in this study.

There is promise for the continued expansion of PSS and their integration across the full spectrum of health care. Recipients of these services report favorable experiences, and PSS providers and managed behavioral health care organizations report very promising results. Additional systematic evaluation research is needed to verify these findings and shed light on other issues related to the role of peer services in health care service delivery.”