Schizophrenia is a truly horrible disease. It's tragic to see once promising young people reduced to unstable, unproductive lives haunted by the madness of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia always starts before age 30 but continues for the rest of a person's life. There is no cure for schizophrenia. The treatments available generally make long term institutionalization unnecessary and can prevent frequent hospitalization but do little to restore normal functioning. In particular, the treatments available don't touch the negative symptoms of schizophrenia -- lethargy and inability to have appropriate emotional and social responses. The negative symptoms may not sound that bad but they are actually devastating. Everyone familiar with the disease prays for some treatment that would improve the lives of schizophrenics.
One approach to schizophrenia that seemed to have promise was early intervention -- identifying schizophrenics as soon as possible and offering them intensive treatment. This led to various Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) studies funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).
Some results from a RAISE study are available and they're not encouraging, at least insofar as Social Security might be concerned. Here's an excerpt from the abstract of a RAISE study:
Method: The Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode–Early Treatment Program (RAISE-ETP) study, a 34-site cluster-randomized trial, compared NAVIGATE, a coordinated specialty care program, to usual community care over 2 years. Receipt of SSA benefits and clinical outcomes were assessed at program entry and every 6 months for 2 years....
Results: Among 399 RAISE-ETP participants, 36 (9%) were receiving SSA disability benefits at baseline; of the remainder, 124 (34.1%) obtained benefits during the 2-year study period. The NAVIGATE intervention improved quality of life, symptoms, and employment but did not significantly reduce the likelihood of receiving SSA disability benefits. Obtaining benefits was predicted by more severe psychotic symptoms and greater dysfunction and was followed by increased total income but fewer days of employment, reduced motivation (e.g., sense of purpose, greater anhedonia), and fewer days of intoxication. [I'm not sure what sort of intoxication they're talking about. Substance abuse isn't a part of schizophrenia. Some schizophrenics have substance abuse problems like some schizophrenics have high blood pressure but as far as I know there's no connection.]
Conclusions: A 2-year coordinated specialty care intervention did not reduce receipt of SSA disability benefits. There were some advantages for those who obtained SSA disability benefits over the 2-year treatment period, but there were also some unintended adverse consequences. Providing income supports without impeding recovery remains an important policy challenge.