Racial and ethnic disparities in behavioral health, criminal justice system involvement, and service needs among mental health participants: implications for service delivery

This article was originally published here

Psycho Serv. 2022 May 12. doi: 10.1037/ser0000669. Online for print.


Mental health courts (MHCs), an alternative to incarceration, aim to address behavioral health, social needs, and criminal recidivism and serve many adults with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder (COD). Despite the growth of MHCs, little research has been done on ethnic/racial differences in behavioral health and service needs of people with COD. This study used data from behavioral, health and social assessments administered to 146 adults with COD entering an MHC in Massachusetts. Multivariate linear and logistic regression control for key demographics tested differences between racial/ethnic groups on current and lifelong substance use, psychological symptoms, and history of involvement in the criminal justice system. Hispanic participants were more likely than non-Hispanic white participants to report current and lifelong serious mental illness and lifelong emergency care (ED) mental health treatment. Non-Hispanic white participants were more likely to report current and lifetime illicit substance use, more recent outpatient and overall lifetime substance use treatment attempts, and a higher number of lifetime arrests compared with non-Hispanic black participants. Finally, non-Hispanic white participants also reported more recent outpatient and overall lifetime substance use treatment attempts compared with Hispanic participants. Racial/ethnic differences in the behavioral, health and social needs of MHC registrants with COD exist and should be considered in the planning and delivery of psychological and social services. Understanding the diverse population of new MHC enrollees is an important first step in identifying and addressing racial and ethnic inequalities. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID:35549301 | DOI: 10.1037/ser0000669

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