ACT teams are multidisciplinary teams (made up of psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, case managers, substance abuse specialists, housing and employment specialists, etc.) that provide wrap-around services in the community for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses. Their goals are to help people stay out of the hospital and to help people build or rebuild lives that are as normal and meaningful as possible. They have been shown to decrease hospitalization rates and are considered one of the evidence-based practices in psychiatry.
For people with bipolar disorder who are having multiple hospitalizations combined with severe social problems, such as homelessness, lack of insurance, inability to pay for medications, and unemployment, an ACT team can be an incredibly powerful support to help get back on track. Services provided by a traditional ACT team include everything from medication management to assisting with housing, insurance, vocational and educational rehabilitation, follow-up with medical care, substance abuse services, and twentyfour-hour crisis service availability. Contacts with an ACT team are frequent, in some instances multiple times a day, especially if supervised medication is one of the services being provided.
ACT teams are not available everywhere and not all of them provide the entire array of services. To see if ACT teams are available in your area, contact your regional community mental health center or mental health authority. The admissions process for ACT teams varies; in some states a self-initiated referral may be acceptable, but more frequently the referral is started by a physician, social worker, or other behavioral health professional.
ACT teams are often part of a state’s “safety net” for people with severe and persistent psychiatric disabilities. As such, ability to pay may not be included in the equation, and in fact a lack of financial resources may be required.