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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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Our goal in this retrospective study was to assess empirical risk factors for repeat visits to the psychiatric emergency room. This information may be useful for targeted prevention and cost-effective service planning. Over a 7-month period, 400 (18%) of 2212 patients were repeat visitors, accounting for 36% of all visits. A diagnosis of a psychotic disorder at the first visit was a risk factor for a repeat visit, especially in young patients. Substance abuse, as suggested by positive urine toxicology, decreased the likelihood of recidivism, but positive toxicology screens in young schizophrenic patients increased the chances of a repeat visit. In a 1-month consecutive sample of 311 patients, unemployment and homelessness were stronger correlates than a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia. These findings support previous evidence that psychiatric emergency services are often used by underprivileged patients. We suggest that a rational preventive approach to reduce recidivism in psychiatric emergency services may include substance abuse treatment and case management for young schizophrenics and community outreach projects for socially disadvantaged patients. Compliance of recidivist patients poses a difficult task for case managers and community psychiatrists. More studies are needed to assess the efficacy of these interventions. (Authors)