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Psychiatr Serv. 2006 Nov;57(11):1600-6.

Conditional release: a less restrictive alternative to hospitalization?

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Mental Health and Social Welfare Research Group, School of Social Welfare, University of California-Berkeley, 120 Haviland Hall (MC 7400), Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.



This study examined conditional release--that is, involuntary outpatient commitment orders upon release from hospitalization--as a least restrictive alternative to psychiatric hospitalization in Victoria, Australia.


Records were obtained from the Victorian Psychiatric Case Register for patients who experienced psychiatric hospitalization: between 1990 and 2000 a total of 8,879 patients were given conditional release and 16,094 were not.


Compared with the group that was hospitalized but did not receive a conditional release, the group that received a conditional release was more likely to have more prior hospitalizations of greater than average duration. Patients with schizophrenia were more likely to be given conditional release. Patients given conditional release experienced a care pattern involving briefer inpatient episodes (8.3 fewer days per episode), more inpatient days, and longer duration of restrictive care--that is, combined inpatient and conditional release periods (5.1 more days per month in care).


For patients at risk of long-term hospitalization, conditional release may help to shorten inpatient episodes by providing a least restrictive alternative to continued hospitalization. However, patients who were given conditional release doubled the amount of days they spent under restrictive care, compared with the amount of time they previously spent in the hospital before entering a period of combined inpatient and conditional release commitment. Additional oversight may have led to more frequent hospitalization. This consequence raises new questions regarding the possible benefits of such extended oversight and new challenges for release planning using conditional release as a least restrictive method of care.

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