Predictors of post-sentence mental health service use in a population cohort of first-time adult offenders in Western Australia
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Background: Little is known about whether or how offenders use mental health services after sentence completion. Aim: This study aimed to determine the likelihood of such service use by adult (18-44years) first-time offenders up to 5years after sentence completion and possible predictor variables. Methods: Pre-sentence and post-sentence mental health service use was obtained from whole-population linked administrative data on 23,661 adult offenders. Cox proportional hazard models were used to determine which socio-demographic, offending and pre-sentence health service variables were associated with such post-sentence service use. Results: The estimated 5-year probability of any post-sentence mental health service use was 12% for offenders who had not previously used such services, but still only 42% for those who had. For the latter, best predictors of post-sentence use were past psychiatric diagnosis and history of self-harm; history of self-harm also predicted post-sentence use among new mental health services users and so also did past physical illness. Indigenous offenders had a greater likelihood of service use for any mental disorder or for substance use disorders than non-Indigenous offenders, irrespective of pre-sentence use. Among those with pre-sentence service contact, imprisoned offenders were less likely to use mental health services after sentence than those under community penalties; in its absence, socio-economic disadvantage and geographic accessibility were associated with greater likelihood of post-sentence use. Conclusions: Our findings highlight the discontinuity of mental healthcare for most sentenced offenders, but especially prisoners, and suggest a need for better management strategies for these vulnerable groups with mental disorders. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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