Plymouth University investigating mental health care for prisoners
PRISONERS have a high prevalence of mental health problems, a new study is set to show.
Researchers are investigating the issues faced by prisoners with mental health problems just before and after their release, so they can develop a better system of caring for them.
The project is being led by Dr Richard Byng, clinical senior lecturer at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, and a GP with a special interest in primary care mental health.
Dr Byng said: "With other colleagues in the team we have already produced a report which shows that offenders with mental health problems need improved and on-going access to mental health interventions.
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"This was the first systematic examination of the healthcare received by offenders across the criminal justice system.
"It was obvious to us that action needed to be taken."
The five-year programme is being carried out by Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, the University of Manchester, University College London and the University of Exeter.
The project aims to develop and evaluate a way of organising care based on an integrated approach involving therapy, medication, housing, training and employment, and ensuring that care continues after release.
Phase one will see researchers working closely with people who have previously been in prison, the prison service and community care providers, to develop the model for an integrated approach to identify and engage prisoners before release and then set up and deliver care after release.
The second phase will be a trial in which half the prisoners would receive the new integrated approach while the others would receive the care that is usually available.
As well as investigating the benefits to released prisoners with mental health problems, the research team will also assess the economic impact of the new approach to see if it results in savings to the public purse.
Dr Byng continued: "We want to build on our findings.
"While prison healthcare has improved in the last decade, mental healthcare is minimal except for those with the severest problems.
"Care after leaving prison is especially lacking for those serving short sentences – offenders often don't want to admit they have problems and services are not always equipped to deal with their complex problems.
"Our research will tell us if the proposed intervention improve prisoners' common mental health problems, improves other aspects of their lives and has wider social and financial benefits."