National Council for Behavioral Health

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Each year, U.S. county jails serve an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illness. In addition, 75 percent of incarcerated individuals have a substance use disorder.

Once incarcerated, these individuals tend to stay in jail longer and are at higher risk of recidivism due to the lack of health care coverage and inconsistent treatment services available to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. Jails can spend two to three times more on individuals with mental illnesses and substance use disorders than on people without, but often do not see improvements in recidivism or recovery.

Community behavioral health organizations (CBHOs) that provide access to treatment services and support for individuals with mental illnesses and substance use disorders, are an important component in improving outcomes for these individuals. Improvement in integrated systems of care between local jails and CBHOs is essential to reducing overall jail costs and recidivism rates and to improve health outcomes and overall public safety.

The Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Collaborative

To help strengthen these efforts, the National Council has launched a new training and support opportunity, the Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Collaborative, which aims to help reinforce the dynamic and open relationship between CBHOs and county jails.

The Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Collaborative is free for participating organizations. To be eligible, CBHOs must be National Council members (or be willing to join the National Council within two weeks of acceptance) and have a pre-existing partnership with the local jail. Although the CBHO completes the application, a letter of commitment from the local sheriff agreeing to the partnership is required.

The National Council and Policy Research Associates will provide selected CBHOs training and technical assistance that enhances organizational processes and clinical acumen for screening and assessment, care planning and coordination and intervention. This 12-month collaborative kicked off in Washington, D.C., on April 26, immediately following NatCon18 – the National Council’s behavioral health conference, which included a track focused exclusively on criminal justice.

The selected Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Collaborative participants are:

  • Chestnut Health Systems – Bloomington, Ill.
  • Human Support Services – Waterloo, Ill.
  • Berks Counseling Center – Reading, Pa.


Prior to the launch of the Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Collaborative, the National Council, in partnership with MTM Services, provided counties the opportunity to strengthen relationships between county jails and community behavioral health providers to reduce recidivism and improve health outcomes for criminal justice populations. Six counties/municipalities participated in two cohorts of the Health Justice Learning Collaborative: Hennepin County, Minn.; Oakland County, Mich.; Travis County, Texas; Kent County, Mich.; Aurora, Colo.; and Norfolk County, Mass.