Young patients with persistent and complex care needs require an integrated care approach: Baseline findings from the multicenter youth flexible ACT Study

M. Broersen*, N. Frieswijk, H. Kroon, A. A. Vermulst, D. H. M. Creemers

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Multicenter Youth Flexible ACT Study is an ongoing observational prospective cohort study that examines the effects of Youth Flexible ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) on young people with complex care needs who are difficult to engage in traditional (office-based) mental health services. However, a clear and detailed description of this patient group is lacking. In the current paper, we present baseline characteristics and psychosocial outcomes of the Youth Flexible ACT target group and explore the existence of underlying specific patient subgroups.

Sixteen Youth Flexible ACT teams from seven mental healthcare institutes in the Netherlands participated in the study. Research participants were monitored for 18 months and administered questionnaires measuring psychiatric- and social functioning every 6 months, yielding four measurements. Baseline data were obtained from 199 adolescents, their mental health workers, and parents/carers. Latent Class Analysis based on HoNOSCA scores (measuring psychosocial and daily functioning) was conducted to identify underlying subgroups.

The target group of Youth Flexible ACT mainly consisted of patients older than 15 years of age with a history of (specialized) mental healthcare. They face many complex problems, including trauma; developmental, mood, and anxiety disorders; and problems with school attendance, family life, and peer relationships. Other frequently reported difficulties were substance misuse, the involvement of the legal system or police, problems with intellectual functioning, and personal finance. Patients were classified into four distinct classes: the “internalizing,” “externalizing,” “non-specific,” and the “overly impulsive” subgroup. Each subgroup had its unique pattern of difficulties and focus, respectively, high levels of depression and anxiety, disruptive behavior, unspecific difficulties, and substance misuse.

As expected, patients in Youth Flexible ACT experienced many severe problems, rendering them vulnerable to fragmented and, thus, ineffective care. Our findings underscore the need for an integrated care approach with a multidisciplinary team of skilled professionals that can bridge these wide-ranging psychosocial problems, as each class of participants experienced a different set of difficulties. Youth Flexible ACT teams need to adjust their care services accordingly.
Original languageEnglish
Article number609120
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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