The primary question addressed by the TX SDC evaluation is whether the program improves participants' mental health and enhances their quality of life, while being cost-effective. People with severe mental illness in Dallas and surrounding counties who consent to join the study are randomly assigned to SDC or a “services-as-usual” condition. Those in the services as usual condition continue to receive services through the area’s NorthSTAR managed care network. Those assigned to SDC are provided with tools for person-centered planning and creation of an individual budget tied to specific recovery goals. Participants have up to $7,000 per year to spend on traditional and non-traditional services, as well as material goods tied directly to recovery goals. Medications, crisis services, and inpatient care remain available through the current service system.
The evaluation design includes participant assessments at three time points: program intake, 12-months and 24-months post-intake. Assessments consist of interviews conducted over the telephone with staff at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Study outcomes include participant satisfaction, service use and costs, clinical indicators, and recovery outcomes such as employment, education, social integration, and quality of life. Participation in the study is completely voluntary, and all research subjects are financially compensated for their time. An advisory committee composed primarily of people in recovery, including SDC participants and administrators, helps to guide the study.