BACKGROUND: An effective means of reducing disability from psychotic disorders is the provision of early detection and intervention targeted at the prodromal phase. Current research and clinical programs for early psychosis (EP) have failed to encapsulate the specific needs of rural and remote communities (RARC) such as limited availability of mental health providers and long distances to travel for care (Fox et al, 1995). This study investigated access to care and service delivery for rural youths experiencing EP. METHODS: Routine clinical mental health service data were analysed for 10–25 year old patients across three rural regions of New South Wales. A large data set (N=1562) for the Central West (CW) rural region was compared to smaller data sets for the Far West (FW) remote and the North Coast (NC) coastal regions. Demographic, clinical and service features were analysed against characteristics specific to RARC. Clinical measures included the HoNOSCA, HoNOS and SDQ. RESULTS: EP patients in the CW represented 10.4% of patients accessing mental health services, but utilised services twice as often as non EP patients and absorbed 37.6% of inpatient service encounters. While the median distance to access service for CW EP patients was 88km, an absence of inpatient services for FW resulted in FW EP patients travelling as far as 895km for hospitalisation. CONCLUSIONS: The results emphasise the importance of developing specific EP services to address the diversity across RARC. The lack of appropriate and timely treatment for rural youths is likely to increase the impairment associated with EP.
Thriteenth Biennial Winter Workshop on Schizophrenia Research. Abstracts from the XIIIth Biennial Winter Workshop on Schizophrenia Research (Presented in Schizophrenia Research Vol. 81, Supp. 1) (Davos, Switzerland 4-10 February, 2006) p. 252-253