Screening for PTSD in public-sector mental health settings: the diagnostic utility of the PTSD checklist

Authors

  • Anouk L. Grubaugh Ph.D.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, and the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Charleston, South Carolina
    • Division of Public Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, 67 President Street, P.O. Box 250861, Charleston, SC, 29425
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  • Jon D. Elhai Ph.D.,

    1. Disaster Mental Health Institute, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota
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  • Karen J. Cusack Ph.D.,

    1. Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Chris Wells M.Ed.,

    1. South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Charleston, South Carolina
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  • B. Christopher Frueh Ph.D.

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, and the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Charleston, South Carolina
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  • This article is a US Government work and, as such, is in the public domain of the United States of America.

Abstract

There are few available data on how to accurately screen for and assess posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among severely mentally ill adults, a group with high rates of unrecognized trauma and PTSD symptoms. We examined the diagnostic utility of a widely used screening instrument, the PTSD Checklist (PCL), for diagnosing PTSD among 44 traumatized, adult, public-sector mental health patients recruited through a community mental health program. Participants completed the PCL and the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), which is considered the “gold standard” for determining PTSD diagnoses. Data provide preliminary support for the use of the PCL as a screening instrument in public psychiatric settings, indicating that the optimal cut-point for adults with severe mental illness is about 54 (with slightly higher or lower recommended cut-points depending on the clinical context and purpose of the PCL). Such data are critical to ensuring that public-sector mental health patients with trauma-related difficulties are identified and referred for appropriate services. Depression and Anxiety 24:124–129, 2007. Published 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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