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SAMHSA News - Volume X, No. 2, Spring 2002

Estimating Cost of Preventive Services in Mental Health

A recent SAMHSA-funded study, Estimating the Cost of Preventive Services in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Under Managed Care, examines typical costs for providing a range of services.

The study presents cost estimates for providing six preventive interventions including:

  • Prenatal visits to mothers at risk from substance abuse
  • Targeted cessation counseling for smokers
  • Targeted short-term mental health therapy
  • Health promotion through "self-care" education
  • Presurgical education for adults
  • Brief counseling sessions for older adults needing help to reduce their alcohol use.

The estimates project the range of potential costs for members of managed care health plans in a "per member per month" format. Factors weighed include the number of health plan enrollees, prevalence of the target condition, time required to deliver each intervention, number of sessions needed, salaries of those delivering services, and administrative and other overhead.

Smoking cessation programs aimed at pregnant enrollees were shown to help improve health outcomes such as low birth weight and perinatal death. Data found that such programs could demonstrate savings as high as $17 for each dollar spent by the plan.

Another example involved programs to lessen anxiety for adults about to undergo surgical procedures. A model intervention involved a bedside visit by an anesthetist the night before surgery, and further assistance by nurses, psychologists, and others. Workbooks and other materials were also furnished to patients. In their best outcomes, these interventions were reported to increase patient compliance with doctors' orders, reduce the need for narcotics, and reduce the length of hospital stays.

Estimating the Cost of Preventive Services in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Under Managed Care was produced by SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services. To obtain a copy of this report, contact SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information Center at P.O. Box 42557, Washington, DC 20015. Telephone: 1 (800) 789-2647 or (866) 889-2647 (TDD). The document can also be viewed at

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