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Characteristics of Recently Incarcerated Primary Care Patients With and Without a Positive Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Screening Upon Clinic Intake

NCJ Number
Psychological Trauma-Theory Research Practice and Policy Volume: 10 Dated: 2023
Date Published

This article presents evidence from a research study, demonstrating that screening positive for post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with other indicators of poor health, acute healthcare utilization, and poverty indicators in a sample of primary-care patients who recently returned to the community from incarceration. 


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is prevalent among people who have been incarcerated. In this paper, the authors discuss their research study examining whether screening positive for PTSD was associated with other indicators of poor health, acute healthcare utilization, and poverty among primary care patients upon release from incarceration. They conducted a cross-sectional survey in a national network of primary care clinics serving people recently released from incarceration. Participants were 416 patients who completed the Primary Care PTSD screen (PC-PTSD) and other questions about mental and physical health, acute healthcare utilization, and economic status within six months of release. Screening positive for PTSD was associated with worse status across nearly all variables examined, including being more likely to report: poor/fair health; current depressive symptoms; lifetime depression diagnosis; cannabis use since release; homelessness; having no cash on-hand; and severe food insecurity. Reporting recent suicidality, alcohol use since release, and emergency department utilization was also more likely. These trends were largely upheld when controlling for demographic characteristics and chronic physical health conditions using linear probability regression. The authors conclude that primary care patients recently released from incarceration have a need for wrap-around services that address health challenges and poverty. Patients with significant PTSD symptoms face even greater challenges. Identification and treatment of PTSD both during and after incarceration is warranted. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2023