Women with comorbid substance use disorders are an extremely vulnerable group having an increased relative risk of negative outcomes such as incarceration, morbidity and mortality. In Sweden, women with comorbid substance use disorders may be placed in compulsory care for substance abuse treatment. Clinical intake assessment procedures are a distinct aspect of clinical practice and are a foundation upon which client motivation and continued treatment occurs.
The current study is a naturalistic quasi-experiment and aims to assess the five-year costs and benefits of a standard intake interview versus an extended psychological and psychiatric assessment for a group of chronic substance abusing women placed in compulsory care in Sweden between 1997 and 2000. Official register data on criminal activity, healthcare use, compulsory care stays and other services was retrieved and all resources used by study participants from date of index care episode was valued. In addition, the cost of providing the intake assessment was estimated.
Results show that the extended assessment resulted in higher net costs over five years of between 256,000 and 557,000 SEK per person for women placed in care via the Law on Compulsory Care for Substance Abusers (LVM). Higher assessment costs made up a portion of this cost. The majority of this cost (47–57%) falls on the local municipality (social welfare) and 11.6–13.7% falls on the individual patient.
Solid evidence supporting the clinical utility or incremental validity of assessment for improving treatment outcomes in this setting was not confirmed.