Mentally ill patients with hepatitis C are less than half as likely to have access to regular medical care as mentally ill patients without the infection, according to a study reported in the June issue of Psychiatric Services.
About 20 percent of persons with severe mental illness are infected with hepatitis C. The researchers reached their finding after studying 777 adults with severe mental illness at four diverse geographic sites. The patients were interviewed and tested for HIV infection, AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Patients who were older, married, insured, or employed had a higher likelihood of receiving regular medical care, the researchers reported. Being black or male or living in a community with high exposure to community violence lowered the odds, according to the researchers.
"There is an urgent need to improve access to medical care for persons with severe mental illness, especially those who may be at high risk of or are already infected with the hepatitis C virus," the researchers concluded.
Other sources: Psychiatric Services 2003; 54(6): 854-859