issues and experts

Offenders with highest overall public services use suffer from mental disorders, substance use - study

December 21, 2015
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A new study led by health sciences researcher Dr. Julian Somers is providing critical insights on the cost of public services accessed by a subgroup of criminal offenders in B.C. Somers and his team observed more than 300 offenders sentenced to community or custody settings over a five-year period. Users under community supervision were found to incur an average cost of $168,000 through accessing services from health, social welfare and justice sectors, while those who served custody sentences incurred a higher average of $247,000.

“The costs of public services accessed by these two groups exceeded the average per capita income in Vancouver,” says Somers, adding the results are indicative of lives spent in perpetual crisis.

Somers’ study is also the first in Canada to investigate the characteristics of offenders who are in frequent contact with multiple public agencies. His findings reveal that 99 per cent of these high frequency service users have been diagnosed with at least one mental disorder. More than 80 per cent have co-occurring substance abuse and an additional mental disorder.

“These empirical findings underscore the urgency of recent initiatives which include supported housing, specialized justice programs, and the revitalization of Riverview Hospital as a centre for research and service delivery for individuals with complex co-occurring disorders,” says Somers.

Somers will release another study on the migration of homeless and mentally ill adults to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in the next few weeks.

Study: http://ete-online.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12982-015-0040-9

• Dr. Julian Somers, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, 778.782.5049, 604.290.3210 (cell), jsomers@sfu.ca