Patterns of referral in first-episode schizophrenia and ultra high-risk individuals: results from an early intervention program in Italy

Angelo Cocchi, Anna Meneghelli, Arcadio Erlicher, Alessia Pisano, Maria Teresa Cascio, Antonio Preti
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2013, 48 (12): 1905-16

PURPOSE: This study set out to investigate the patterns of referral in a sample (n = 206) of patients having first-time access to an Italian comprehensive program that targets the early detection of and early intervention on subjects at the onset of psychosis. The primary goal of the study was to investigate the duration of untreated illness (DUI) and/or the duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) in the sample since the implementation of the program.

METHOD: Data on pathways of referrals prospectively collected over a 11-year period, from 1999 to 2010; data referred to patients from a defined catchment area, and who met ICD-10 criteria for a first episode of a psychotic disorder (FEP) or were classified to be at ultra-high risk of psychosis (UHR) according to the criteria developed by the Personal Assessment and Crisis Evaluation (PACE) Clinic in Melbourne. Changes over time in the DUI and DUP were investigated in the sample.

RESULTS: Referrals increased over time, with 20 subjects enrolled per year in the latter years of the study. A large majority of patients contacted a public or private mental health care professional along their pathway to treatment, occurring more often in FEP than in UHR patients. FEP patients who had contact with a non-psychiatric health care professional had a longer DUP. Over time, DUP and DUI did not change in FEP patients, but DUI increased, on average, in UHR patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The establishment of an EIP in a large metropolitan area led to an increase of referrals from people and agencies that are not directly involved in the mental health care system; over time, there was an increase in the number of patients with longer DUI and DUP than those who normally apply for psychiatric services.

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