Detection of co-occurring mental illness among adult patients in the New Jersey substance abuse treatment system

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; Comorbidity; Female; Humans; Indians, North American; Male; Medical Records; Mental Disorders; Middle Aged; New Jersey; Substance-Related Disorders




OBJECTIVES: We assessed the detection of mental illness in an adult population of substance abuse patients and the rate of referral for mental health treatment.

METHODS: We obtained combined administrative records from 1994 to 1997 provided by the New Jersey substance abuse and mental health systems and estimated detection and referral rates of patients with co-occurring disorders (n = 47,379). Mental illness was considered detected if a diagnosis was in the record and considered undetected if a diagnosis was not in the record but the patient was seen in both treatment systems within the same 12-month period. Predictors of detection and referral were identified.

RESULTS: The detection rate of co-occurring mental illness was 21.9% (n=10364); 57.9% (n=6001) of these individuals were referred for mental health treatment. Methadone maintenance clinics had the lowest detection rate but the highest referral rate. Male, Hispanic, and African American patients, as well as those who used heroin or were in the criminal justice system, had a higher risk of mental illness not being detected. Once detected, African American patients, heroin users, and patients in the criminal justice system were less likely to be referred for treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a need to improve the detection of mental illness among substance abuse patients and to provide integrated treatment.

DOI of Published Version



Am J Public Health. 2006 Oct;96(10):1785-93. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

American journal of public health

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID