Universiteit Leiden

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Care conferences for long-term forensic patients: demand greater than supply

Care conferences for long-term residents (15+ years) in forensic mental health care are widely appreciated by all parties involved. Research by Leiden University shows that the demand for these meetings is so great that the supply cannot be met within the desired time frame.

Care conferences are used in cases involving forensic mental health patients who have been residing for more than 15 years in a TBS facility and who have become stuck in their trajectory and are in need of a new perspective. Together with a group of professionals from all relevant disciplines, solutions for a more liveable future for the patient are considered in a two-hour meeting. The outcome of the care conference is a recommendation to the clinic which remains ultimately responsible for the treatment.

The Dutch Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) commissioned Joni Reef and Michiel van der Wolf of the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology to conduct research into these care conferences. Last week they published their final report (English summary available). It appears that all involved parties are very enthusiastic about these meetings: they see them as an addition to existing instruments for reviewing the duration and progress of a patient’s treatment and a way of breaking a deadlock.

The research shows that the parties involved believe that the benefits outweigh the costs: a care conference regularly leads to appropriate follow-up steps. It can also turn out that the patient is still in the right place. The effectiveness of the care conferences is partly ascribed to the common goal ownership and out-of-the-box thinking. A care conference considers the case from all angles.

Due to the success of these care conferences, demand is so great that the supply cannot meet this within the desired time frame. Therefore the researchers recommend increasing the (personnel) capacity for care conferences as well as the range of tasks at the relevant authority. Another point for improvement is embedding the care conferences in clear law or policy, so that their continued existence is better safeguarded.

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