As Ireland confronts the many challenges of broadening the introduction of early intervention services (EIS) for first episode psychosis (FEP) as national policy, this article describes Carepath for Overcoming Psychosis Early (COPE), the EIS of Cavan-Monaghan Mental Health Service, and presents prospective research findings during its first 5 years of operation.
COPE was launched as a rural EIS with an embedded research protocol in early 2012, following an education programme for general practitioners (GPs). Here, operational activities are documented and research findings presented through to late 2016.
During this period, 115 instances of FEP were incepted into COPE, 70.4% via their GP and 29.6% via the Emergency Department. The annual rate of inception was 24.8/100,000 of population aged > 15 years and was 2.1-fold more common among men than women. Mean duration of untreated psychosis was 5.7 months and median time from first psychotic presentation to initiation of antipsychotic treatment was zero days. Assessments of psychopathology, neuropsychology, neurology, premorbid functioning, quality of life, insight, and functionality compared across 10 DSM-IV psychotic diagnoses made at six months following presentation indicated minimal differences between them, other than more prominent negative symptoms in schizophrenia and more prominent mania in bipolar disorder.
COPE illustrates the actuality of introducing and the challenges of operating a rural EIS for FEP. Prospective follow-up studies of the 5-year COPE cohort should inform on the effectiveness of this EIS model in relation to long-term outcome in psychotic illness across what appear to be arbitrary diagnostic boundaries at FEP.