Year: 2020 Source: Preventive Medicine. (2019). 129. SIEC No: 20200118

Individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) are six times as likely than those without a SUD to attempt suicide, however just 18% of the SUD population has received treatment. One of the barriers to treatment is appropriate and timely mental health services. This resulted in a substantial increase in emergency department (ED) visits related to SUD and suicide. This study sought to determine if the number of suicide-related ED visits for patients with SUD is associated with the types of mental health activities provided by their local health department (LHD). Specifically, we examined whether patients with a SUD aged 18–64 experienced reductions in suicide-related ED visits when their LHD directly engaged in mental health activities, such as (1) primary prevention for mental illness or (2) mental health services. Using linked datasets for 2012 from the National Profile of Local Health Departments, U.S. Census data, Area Health Resource File, and Maryland’s State Emergency Department Databases (SEDD), we employed multivariable logistic regressions and instrumental variable models to examine this association. After adjusting for the endogeneity of LHDs’ activity measures and controlling for individual-, hospital-, LHD-, and county-level characteristics, results demonstrated patients with a SUD experienced a 6% and 5% reduction in suicide-related ED visits when their LHD directly provided primary prevention for mental illness and mental health services, respectively. The results are small but significant, with robust standard errors. This study suggests LHDs may be key players in preventing suicide-related ED visits among the SUD population.