Objective: This study examined whether the proportion as well as the number of prisoners with behavioral health disorders have increased in recent years.
Methods: Among 41,440 persons admitted to Washington State prisons from 1998 through 2006, this study estimated numbers and proportions of behavioral health disorders diagnosed while persons were in the community or in prison.
Results: There was a 44% increase in persons admitted with a diagnosed co-occurring substance use disorder between 1998 (N=477) and 2005 (N=686); this increase dropped to 27% by 2006 (N=604). Ratewise, increases in the annual proportion of persons admitted with co-occurring disorders were much smaller, ranging from approximately .2% to 2.6%.
Conclusions: The growth in the numbers of prisoners with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders was not due primarily to increases in admission base rates. Nevertheless, more treatment resources will be needed in prisons to meet growing mental health care needs, and more community-based resources will be needed to ensure continuity of treatment and successful community reentry.