Service penetration by persons with severe mental illness: How should it be measured?

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As performance indicators and outcomes measures become essential parts of doing business, providers of mental health services are developing and using a number of access measures. One that is being used with increasing frequency is service penetration. However, the lack of standard methods for calculating and reporting service penetration has made the comparison of penetration rates across studies difficult. This article discusses the conceptualization and operationalization of service penetration. In addition, it presents an exploratory study of service penetration using data from the same persons using very different data sources; these data were collected during an evaluation of a Medicaid managed care system in Florida. The article offers recommendations for the use and reporting of service penetration rates.