Original Research

Forensic mental health services: Current service provision and planning for a prison mental health service in the Eastern Cape

Kiran Sukeri, Orlando A. Betancourt, Robin Emsley, Mohammed Nagdee, Helmut Erlacher
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 22, No 1 | a787 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v22i1.787 | © 2016 Kiran Sukeri, Orlando A. Betancourt, Robin Emsley, Mohammed Nagdee, Helmut Erlacher | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 February 2015 | Published: 06 May 2016

About the author(s)

Kiran Sukeri, Department of Psychiatry, Walter Sisulu University, South Africa
Orlando A. Betancourt, Department of Psychiatry, Walter Sisulu University, South Africa
Robin Emsley, Department of Psychiatry, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Mohammed Nagdee, Department of Psychiatry, Walter Sisulu University; Department of Psychology, Rhodes University, South Africa
Helmut Erlacher, Department of Psychiatry, Walter Sisulu University, South Africa

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Objectives: No research data exists on forensic psychiatric service provision in the Eastern Cape, Republic of South Africa. The objective of this research was to assess current forensic psychiatric service provision and utilisation rates at Fort England Hospital. This is important in improving and strengthening the service. A related objective was to develop a model for a provincial prison mental health service.

Methodology: This study is a situational analysis of an existing forensic psychiatric service in the Eastern Cape. The design of the study was cross sectional. An audit questionnaire was utilised to collate quantitative data, which was submitted to Fort England Hospital, Grahamstown. A proposed prison mental health service was developed utilising prevalence rates of mental illness among prisoners to calculate bed and staff requirements for an ambulatory and in-patient service.

Results: During the study period a total of 403 remand detainees were admitted to the forensic psychiatry division of Fort England Hospital. The average length of stay was 494 days and the bed utilisation rate was determined at 203.54%. We estimate that to provide a provincial prison mental health service to treat psychotic illnesses and major depression the province requires a 52 bedded facility and a total staff complement of approximately 31.

Conclusions: Forensic psychiatric services include the assessment, management and treatment of mentally disordered persons in conflict with the law and prisoners requiring psychiatric assessments. The Eastern Cape Province does not have plans or policies to assess and manage mentally ill offenders, resulting in an increased load on available services. We recommend that an inter-departmental task team, which includes Health, Justice and Constitutional Development and Correctional Services, should be established in the province, to develop a strategy to assist in the development of an effective and efficient forensic psychiatric service. This should be driven by the provincial Department of Health.


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