The disorders of the psychosis spectrum, with the most severe being schizophrenia, are prevalent and have a great impact on the patients’ quality of life. The purpose of this article is to highlight the need for a novel national strategic approach to the management of psychotic disorders in accordance with the international principles of early intervention. Even though outpatient treatment is considered adequate, there is an urgent need to adopt an early and more comprehensive and effective intervention strategy for young patients with psychosis and their families whose clinical and personal needs are clearly not met by the existing infrastructure of our mental health services. This can be accomplished by the legislation and implementation within the national health system of EIP services which on the one hand actively engage community organizations with the purpose of early identification of cases, reduction of the duration of untreated psychosis and on the other, offer assertive community-based support and treatment, based on a multi-disciplinary community team model. The effectiveness of early intervention in psychosis is supported by evidence provided by 9 international RCTs. The results of these programs indicate a superior effect in indexes of quality of life, retention in treatment, psychopathology, judicious use of medication and return to work/school as well as the patient’s effective recovery. International experience (Denmark, Norway, Australia, UK, USA, Canada and Italy) and the corresponding prevention programs emphasize the effectiveness of EIP services and thus the patients’ reintegration. However, in contrast to Northern European countries, Southern European countries have not yet incorporated EIP services in their national health system. From a financial perspective, EIP services seem to be cost-effective for the national health system, since the economic burden is compensated in the long term through their qualitative benefits. In Greece, specialized services for those young afflicted for the first time by the most serious of mental disorders are non-existent and no local information exists for the patient’s outcome and social integration after a first psychotic-episode nor for the financial burden, placed on mental health services. Overall, the implementation of EIP services is expected to have long-term benefits for our country’s National Health System as well as for the patients and their families.

Key words: Early detection, integrated intervention, first episode psychosis, preventive psychiatry.

N.C. Stefanis, V. Mavreas, Ι. Νimatoudis, F. Gourzis, Μ. Samakouri, A. Vgontzas, A. Douzenis, EIP Working group (page 107)

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