A Community Outreach and Education Model for Early Identification of Mental Illness in Young People

PIER offers a new model for community health education that, in contrast to traditional mental health education, strengthens capacity for proactive engagement of key stakeholders in youth mental health.

An article describing the community outreach and education facet of the Portland Identification and Early Referral Program (PIER) concludes that PIER demonstrates that community members can help identify young people experiencing symptoms of psychotic disorders.

PIER staff offered free professional education to staff in organizations and developed standard community education presentations for specific audiences, such as pediatricians or school nurses. They presented information on warning signs and making referrals within young people's social networks, aiming to increase knowledge of early warning signs for psychosis, increase appropriate referrals of at-risk youth, create a support system of professionals and community members, and decrease barriers to early identification.

Community outreach led to referral of 780 youths, which in turn led to 404 cases sufficiently at risk for formal assessment. Thirty-seven percent of those cases were deemed to be at high risk of psychosis, while 20 percent had untreated psychosis. The correct referral efficiency ratio was 57 percent. Half of the referrals came from outside the mental health system.

PIER has shown that community members can accurately identify young people at the beginning of psychotic disorders and refer them to care.