The NorthSTAR Program is a publicly funded managed care approach to the delivery of mental health and substance use services to the eligible residents of Dallas, Ellis, Collin, Hunt, Navarro, Rockwall and Kaufman counties in Texas. The program provides a comprehensive mental health/substance use benefit package for all eligible individuals. Access to benefits is determined by clinical need, not funding source. The NorthSTAR Program originated as a pilot project in July of 1999. It provided a comparison of behavioral health services based on the traditional Medicaid “fee for service model,” and a Medicaid managed care carve-out approach to service delivery. One external evaluation of the program occurred during the first years of operation.

Researchers from the School of Social Work’s Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health will obtain multiple years of the NorthSTAR client database and analyze data, focusing on assessing service accessibility and continuity of care, quality of services and client outcomes. Particular attention will be given to activities and services that promote the utilization of evidence-based and promising practices, utilization of emergency and crisis services, and differences in access and outcomes for individuals with a singular issue (mental health or substance use) as well as those with co-occurring disorders (mental health and substance use) individuals.

The healthcare environment is changing rapidly and integration of care within managed care systems is becoming the norm. Understanding the impacts of this unique carve out model may contribute to the development of new models of service delivery.