Objective: In the context of an increasing correctional population and corresponding rates of mental illness and substance abuse among this population, this study focuses on describing the predictors of substance abuse service utilization for ex-inmates with dual disorders. Our aim is to assess the likelihood and characteristics of ex-inmates with mental disorders who access substance abuse treatment services within two years of correctional release.
Methods: Using merged administrative data on all ex-inmates with open mental health cases released from Massachusetts Department of Corrections and two County Houses of Corrections from 2007 to 2009 (N=2,280) and substance abuse treatment outcome data through 2011, we analyze the influence of demographics, behavioral and mental disorders, and criminal justice variables on entry into substance abuse treatment within 24 months post release. We also describe primary drug use and services utilized for all the ex-inmates who accessed substance abuse services (N=1,383). Regression techniques were used to analyze the probability of utilizing substance abuse treatment services by various demographic, behavioral, and criminal involvement characteristics.
Results: The prevalence of a history of substance use disorders is high in this population (69%; n = 1,285). Subsequently, at 24 months post release 61% (n = 1,383) of ex-inmates with open mental health cases utilized substance abuse treatment services. This group was disproportionately female, with a preincarceration history of substance abuse, an increased number of previous incarcerations, and more likely released under correctional supervision.
Conclusions: Substance abuse is a chronic relapsing disorder and dual diagnosis is common among individuals with mental disorders involved with the criminal justice system. Their service needs and contacts across substance abuse, mental health, and criminal justice systems highlight individuals caught up in the institutional circuit. Study results point to the need for expanded and targeted dual diagnosis treatment approaches and relapse prevention for ex-inmates with mental disorders post correctional release.
Keywords: criminal justice; dual diagnosis; ex-inmates; history of substance abuse services; mental disorder; mental illness; substance abuse; substance abuse treatment services.