Impact of dual diagnosis on healthcare and criminal justice costs after release from Queensland prisons: a prospective cohort study

K. J. Snow, D. Petrie, J. T. Young, D. B. Preen, E. Heffernan, S. A. Kinner

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: People released from prison have poorer health than the general public, with a particularly high prevalence of mental illness and harmful substance use. High-frequency use of hospital-based services is costly, and greater investment in transitional support and primary care services to improve the health of people leaving prison may therefore be cost-effective. Methods: A prospective cohort study of 1303 men and women released from prisons in Queensland, Australia, between 2008 and 2010, using linked data was performed. We calculated healthcare costs and the cost of re-incarceration. We compared healthcare costs to the general public, and assessed the impact of past mental illness, substance use disorder, and dual diagnosis on both healthcare and criminal justice costs. Results: Healthcare costs among the cohort were 2.1-fold higher than expected based on costs among the public. Dual diagnosis was associated with 3.5-fold higher healthcare costs (95% CI 2.6-4.6) and 2.8-fold higher re-incarceration costs (95% CI 1.6-5.0), compared with no past diagnosis of either mental illness or substance use disorder. Conclusions: People released from prison incur high healthcare costs, primarily due to high rates of engagement with emergency health services and hospital admissions. Comorbid mental illness and substance use disorders are associated with high health and criminal justice costs among people recently released from prison.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-270
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Journal of Primary Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • alcohol
  • harmful substance use
  • health economics
  • health equity
  • mental health
  • prison health

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