The program, called Person-to-Person, will be staffed seven days a week, 15 hours a day, by telephone information counselors who can help connect patients to their families, to treatment teams in the community, and to other community resources and entitlements such as Medicaid and Supplemental Social Security Income.
Risperdal is marketed by Janssen, which is underwriting the cost of the program.
Person-to-Person counselors will provide support through telephone calls in which patients are reminded about medical, social, or educational appointments. Patients and families can call to discuss basic problems, to get information on using mainstream services, or to leave personal messages for each other.
Patients can continue to use the service if they are switched to another medication while enrolled, according to Janssen.
APA and other groups hailed the initiative as a unique private-sector initiative to help patients with a wide range of needs.
In a statement released last month APA said, "The Association is pleased that Person-to-Person and other case-management programs have been developed to enhance and support [the therapeutic alliance between psychiatrist and patient.] Patients with schizophrenia commonly stop taking medication, miss clinic appointments, and fail to report essential information to their psychiatrists. . . . Person-to-Person has the potential to promote compliance with medical treatment and to facilitate the patient's participation in other community-support activities for rehabilitation and vocational assistance."
Charles Huffine, M.D., president of the American Association of Community Psychiatrists, applauded the initiative in a letter last month to the pharmaceutical company.
"Many of those with schizophrenia and other serious and persistent psychiatric disorders need far more intensive, integrated, and wide-ranging services than are currently available to them," Huffine wrote. ". . .Although organizationally we believe that it is the responsibility of both the government and private insurance programs to provide such services, we recognize that such needs currently remain unmet.
"Person-to-Person is to be applauded as an effort to offset some of these shortcomings in our current delivery system. By providing access to information, personal follow-up, and a referral network of self-help and other supports, it promises to be of significant benefit to those enrolled. Offering reminder calls to patients is likely to increase compliance with taking their medication significantly. Given that some patients are relatively reluctant to contact their physicians, pharmacists, and nurses on their own, the possibility of calling one number, which can help them to access these members of the care team, is an inspired idea."
The National Alliance on Mental Illness also joined in the chorus of applause for the effort.
"Serious brain disorders, such as schizophrenia, typically result in lifelong disability, taking a terrible toll on patients and family members," said Laurie Flynn, executive director of NAMI. "However, persons with schizophrenia and their loved ones have real hope for meaningful recovery. Unprecedented scientific advances, improved treatments, and the slow, but steady end to discrimination in health insurance, housing options, and employment opportunities will mean that more individuals with this brain disorder will be able to lead independent lives of dignity.
"Nevertheless, fragmented, confusing, and underfunded services are still too often the reality for persons with schizophrenia," Flynn added. "In this age of health care reform, 'Person-to-Person' can provide an important connection to the complex, fragmented, and rapidly changing service delivery system. We applaud Janssen for providing another important key that will help pave the road to recovery."
Additional information about Person-to-Person is available by calling (800) 818-9139. People with mental illness and caregivers may enroll in the program by calling (800) 376-8282.
(Psychiatric News, June 6, 1997)