Two-year prevalence rates of mental health and substance use disorder diagnoses among repeat arrestees

Lauren A. Magee*, J. Dennis Fortenberry, Marc Rosenman, Matthew C. Aalsma, Sami Gharbi, Sarah E. Wiehe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Individuals with mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders often rapidly cycle through the justice system with multiple arrests. Therefore, is it imperative to examine the prevalence of mental health and substance use diagnoses among arrestees and repeat arrestees to identify opportunities for intervention. Methods: We linked police arrest and clinical care data at the individual level to conduct a retrospective cohort study of all individuals arrested in 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. We classified arrestees into three levels: 1 arrest, 2 arrests, or 3 or more arrests. We included data on clinical diagnoses between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2015 and classified mental health diagnoses and substance use disorder (SUD) based on DSM categories using ICD9/10 diagnoses codes. Results: Of those arrested in 2016, 18,236 (79.5%) were arrested once, 3167 (13.8%) were arrested twice, and 1536 (6.7%) were arrested three or more times. In the 2 years before the arrest, nearly one-third (31.3%) of arrestees had a mental health diagnosis, and over a quarter (27.7%) of arrestees had an SUD diagnosis. Most of those with a mental health or SUD diagnosis had both (22.5% of all arrestees). Arrestees with multiple mental health (OR 2.68, 95% CI 2.23, 3.23), SUD diagnoses (OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.38, 1,82), or co-occurring conditions (1.72, 95% CI 1.48, 2.01) in the preceding 2 years had higher odds of repeat arrest. Conclusions: Our findings show that linked clinical and criminal justice data systems identify individuals at risk of repeat arrest and inform opportunities for interventions aimed at low-level offenders with behavioral health needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalHealth and Justice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Justice population
  • Mental health conditions
  • Repeat arrest
  • Substance use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Law


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