People released from prison who struggle with both mental illness and substance use problems are 12 times more likely to sustain an injury compared to those in the general public, according to a new Australian study published in the journal The Lancet.
Researcher Jesse Young from the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne led a study that analyzed the hospital records for 1,307 people released from seven Queensland prisons from 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2010.
His findings reveal that, among the 1,307 released, 227 had a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance use problems; 99 had mental illness only; 314 had substance use disorder only; and 617 had no recent history of mental disorder
After release, a total of 407 suffered 898 injuries resulting in hospital contact. Of the 407, a total of 122 had both mental illness and substance use problems; 35 had mental illness only; 82 had substance use disorder only.
Those with both mental health and substance use disorders were injured at three times the rate of those released from prison with no mental health problems, and more than 10 times the rate of adults in the community.
“Injury is one of the major causes of death and disability globally,” said Young. “It can often result in hospitalisation which can, in turn, be very costly to society. Currently it’s estimated to cost more than four billion dollars in direct health care every year in Australia. On average, a hospital bed costs $1840 a day.”
One in five adults released from prison had a recent history of both mental illness and substance use disorder, which is 10 times higher than the estimated rate among the general Australian population.
Although risky drug use was a health concern for many people released from prison, Young said injury from causes other than drugs accounted for nine out of 10 injury events over the study period.
“To our knowledge there are few interventions that target injury from causes other than substance use for people transitioning from prison to the community,” said Young.
“Our findings show that some of the most vulnerable people released from prison experience an extremely high burden of injury in the community. For the first time we have shown specific groups and time periods where the risk of injury is greatest after release from prison.”
Young hopes his study will be used to direct resources to this vulnerable population.
“Continuous care between prison and community mental health and addiction services is urgently needed. This would not only benefit those vulnerable individuals but would reduce public healthcare costs. Spending in this area should be a public health priority,” he said.
Source: University of Melbourne