Deanna Barath
September 30, 2019

Deanna Barath, doctoral student in health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, published her first first-author publication with the help of her advisor Dr. Jie Chen, associate professor and director of the Hospital And Public health interdisciPlinarY research (HAPPY) Lab.

Their study sought to determine if the types of mental health services provided by local health departments were associated with suicide-related (suicidal ideation and self-inflicted injury) emergency department visits in adult patients with a substance use disorder in Maryland.

Barath and Chen identified two mental health activities in the National Profile of Local Health Departments: (1) primary prevention for mental illness and (2) mental health services. They found that if a local health department in Maryland directly provided one mental health activity they were likely to provide both. 

Utilizing Maryland's State Emergency Department Databases from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, they identified 34,734 Maryland residents aged 18–64 with a substance use disorder, of which more than 7% had a suicide-related emergency department visit. 

The results suggest patients with a substance use disorder were 5–6% less likely to experience a suicide-related emergency department visit when their local health department provided primary prevention for mental illness and mental health services. 

These results are small, but significant, especially as Maryland’s Department of Health is focused on reducing suicides and emergency department visits for mental health conditions and substance use disorders. These findings also support the need for care coordination and the integration of physical and mental health services, and the need for evidence-based best practices to reduce suicide nationwide.