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Ayla Colella

Director of Practice Improvement

Bridging the Criminal Justice and Community Care Gap

December 11, 2019 | Advocacy and Policy | Comments
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A substantial portion of the prison population is not receiving treatment for mental health conditions, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Research also shows that 75 percent of incarcerated individuals have a substance use disorder and, due to a lack of health care coverage and inconsistent treatment services, are at a higher risk of recidivism. Here are five ways the National Council is helping this marginalized population:

  1. We launched the Criminal Justice Behavioral Health Collaborative, a 12-month training and technical assistance initiative that supports jails and community behavioral health organizations to improve mental health and addiction outcomes for individuals leaving incarceration and re-entering the community. We helped introduce crisis intervention training for police, made improvements in jail mental health and substance use screening, increased access to housing and expedited Medicaid enrollment upon jail release.
  2. We are working closely with Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) to coordinate care across settings and providers, ensuring patients’ seamless transition from the justice system into the community. CCBHC staff can participate in vital diversion and re-entry programs by responding to mental health and addiction crises outside their clinic, participating in mental health and drug courts and working side-by-side with probation officers.
  3. We are collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Vital Strategies and experts in the field to develop and disseminate a series of tools to support state and community-level stakeholders in implementing, operationalizing and sustaining evidence-based treatments for opioid use disorder in correctional settings and upon release. In January 2020, our toolkit, Implementing Medication-assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Jails and Prisons, will be released.
  4. We are delivering Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety, an 8-hour training that teaches law enforcement and corrections officers how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. This training is a valuable resource that can make a difference in the lives and communities of public safety personnel.
  5. We have partnered with the International Association of Chiefs of Police for their One Mind Campaign, which seeks to ensure successful interactions between police officers and people affected by mental illness. The campaign supports law enforcement agencies in adopting four promising practices around mental health, including training and certifying sworn officers and selected non-sworn staff in Mental Health First Aid.

Collaboration improves outcomes. Together with our partners, we will continue our work to save lives, support and promote recovery at every step and reduce involvement in the criminal justice system, all while helping our member organizations identify gaps and ways to close them.

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