Australia and New Zealand have some of the highest rates of compulsory community treatment order use worldwide. There are also concerns that people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds may have higher rates of community treatment orders. We therefore assessed the health service, clinical and psychosocial outcomes of compulsory community treatment and explored if culturally and linguistically diverse, indigenous status or other factors predicted community treatment orders.
We searched the following databases from inception to January 2020: PubMed/Medline, Embase, CINAHL and PsycINFO. We included any study conducted in Australia or New Zealand that compared people on community treatment orders for severe mental illness with controls receiving voluntary psychiatric treatment. Two reviewers independently extracted data, assessing study quality using Joanna Briggs Institute scales.
A total of 31 publications from 12 studies met inclusion criteria, of which 24 publications could be included in a meta-analysis. Only one was from New Zealand. People who were male, single and not engaged in work, study or home duties were significantly more likely to be subject to a community treatment order. In addition, those from a culturally and linguistically diverse or migrant background were nearly 40% more likely to be on an order. Indigenous status was not associated with community treatment order use in Australia and there were no New Zealand data. Community treatment orders did not reduce readmission rates or bed-days at 12-month follow-up. There was evidence of increased benefit in the longer-term but only after a minimum of 2 years of use. Finally, people on community treatment orders had a lower mortality rate, possibly related to increased community contacts.
People from culturally and linguistically diverse or migrant backgrounds are more likely to be placed on a community treatment order. However, the evidence for effectiveness remains inconclusive and limited to orders of at least 2 years’ duration. The restrictive nature of community treatment orders may not be outweighed by the inconclusive evidence for beneficial outcomes.