Predicting emergency department visits and hospitalization among the clients of Nova Scotia Mental Health and Addiction central intake assessment

Background: Mental disorders can have negative impacts on people’s health, quality of life, relationships, and productivity. However, people who are in need of mental health and addiction services encounter significant challenges, including timely access to mental health services. As a result, clients’ mental health needs are not met or not fully met, and their health will deteriorate, leading to higher risks of emergency department visits and hospitalization. To address the challenge of mental health and addiction service access, the Nova Scotia provincial government established a mental health and addiction central intake process through a single, toll-free telephone number no matter where you are in the province and whether you have a family doctor. The central intake system ensures all patients are examined and prioritized the same way so that they are referred to the appropriate level of care in a timely manner. Meanwhile, the central intake system tracks important demographic and health information to allow decision makers and service planners at the provincial and health region levels to

better plan, improve and deliver services to Nova Scotians. In this context, we proposed a 2-year study to examine the patterns of mental health and addiction services use among the clients of central intake system, to understand why some patients are more likely to be hospitalized and/or visit emergency department, and to develop advanced prediction tools for identifying high-cost users of the healthcare system. Through effective integrated knowledge translation, the results will inform decision makers and service planners to streamline mental health and addiction services, improve service access, reduce hospitalization and emergency department visits, and enhance the efficiency of services delivery, leading to better service access and a more sustainable healthcare system.



  • To describe the patterns of MHA service use after the central intake assessment, overall and by sex, age groups, rural/urban residence, ethnicity, income sources, living conditions, and health zones.
  • To estimate the proportions of psychiatric hospitalization, MHA related emergency department (ED) visits, and high resources use after the central intake assessment.
  • To identify the baseline factors associated with psychiatric hospitalization, ED visits, and high resources use (HRU).
  • To develop risk predictive models for psychiatric hospitalization, ED visits, and HRU.


Funding sources: Research Nova Scotia, Mitacs


Team members: JianLi Wang (PI), Co-investigators: George Kephart, Swarna Weerasinghe, Cindy Feng, Sandra Meier, Rodulf Uher, Martin Alda, Phil Tibbo, Sherry Stewart, Vincent Agyapong, Patryk Simon.

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