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Sex differences in mental health and substance use disorders and treatment entry among justice-involved Veterans in the Veterans Health Administration.

Finlay AK, Binswanger IA, Smelson D, Sawh L, McGuire J, Rosenthal J, Blue-Howells J, Timko C, Blodgett JC, Harris AH, Asch SM, Frayne S. Sex differences in mental health and substance use disorders and treatment entry among justice-involved Veterans in the Veterans Health Administration. Medical care. 2015 Apr 1; 53(4 Suppl 1):S105-11.

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND: Over half of veterans in the criminal justice system have mental health or substance use disorders. However, there is a critical lack of information about female veterans in the criminal justice system and how diagnosis prevalence and treatment entry differ by sex. OBJECTIVES: To document prevalence of mental health and substance use disorder diagnoses and treatment entry rates among female veterans compared with male veterans in the justice system. RESEARCH DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study using national Veterans Health Administration clinical/administrative data from veterans seen by Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists in fiscal years 2010-2012. SUBJECTS: A total of 1535 females and 30,478 male veterans were included. MEASURES: Demographic characteristics (eg, sex, age, residence, homeless status), mental health disorders (eg, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder), substance use disorders (eg, alcohol and opioid use disorders), and treatment entry (eg, outpatient, residential, pharmacotherapy). RESULTS: Among female veterans, prevalence of mental health and substance use disorders was 88% and 58%, respectively, compared with 76% and 72% among male veterans. Women had higher odds of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.98; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.68-2.34] and lower odds of being diagnosed with a substance use disorder (AOR = 0.50; 95% CI, 0.45-0.56) compared with men. Women had lower odds of entering mental health residential treatment (AOR = 0.69; 95% CI, 0.57-0.83). CONCLUSIONS: Female veterans involved in the justice system have a high burden of mental health disorders (88%) and more than half have substance use disorders (58%). Entry to mental health residential treatment for women is an important quality improvement target.





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