A survey of national trends in psychiatric patients found incompetent to stand trial: Reasons for the reinstitutionalization of people with serious mental illness in the United States

Katherine Warburton, Barbara E. McDermott, Anthony Gale, Stephen M. Stahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective.Recent information indicates that the number of forensic patients in state hospitals has been increasing, largely driven by an increase in patients referred to state hospitals as incompetent to stand trial (IST). This survey was intended to broaden the understanding of IST population trends on a national level.Methods.The authors developed a 30-question survey to gather specific information on IST commitments in each state and the District of Columbia. The survey was administered to all 50 states and the District of Columbia via email. Specific individuals identified as primary administrators responsible for the care and evaluation of IST admissions in each state were contacted.Results.A total of 50 out of the 51 jurisdictions contacted completed the survey. Fully 82% of states indicated that referrals for competency evaluation were increasing. Additionally, 78% of respondents thought referrals for competency restoration were increasing. When asked to rank factors that led to an increase, the highest ranked response was inadequate general mental health services in the community. Inadequate crisis services were the second ranked reason. Inadequate number of inpatient psychiatric beds in the community was the third highest, with inadequate assertive community treatment services ranking fourth.Conclusions.Understanding the national trend and causes behind the recent surge in referrals for IST admissions will benefit states searching for ways to remedy this crisis. Our survey indicates most states are facing this issue, and that it is largely related to insufficient services in the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCNS Spectrums
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • Incompetent
  • national
  • stand
  • survey.
  • trends
  • trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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