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Health Justice


Local jails in the United States serve an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses each year. Three out of four incarcerated individuals also suffer from a substance use disorder.

Once incarcerated, these individuals tend to stay in jail longer and are at a higher risk of recidivism. This is 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 illness and substance use disorders than on people without, but often do not see improvements in recidivism or recovery.

Improvement in integrated systems of care between local jails and community behavioral health organizations (CBHOs) is necessary to reduce the prevalence of incarcerated individuals with mental illnesses cycling through the criminal justice system.

Linking these individuals to consistent treatment providers and health care coverage in and out of jails is essential to reducing overall jail costs and recidivism rates and to improve health outcomes and overall public safety.

The National Council’s Health Justice Learning Collaborative

The National Council’s Health Justice Learning Collaborative (HJLC) provides active support to communities designing and implementing local solutions to this pressing problem. HJLC strengthens relationships between county jails and community behavioral health providers to reduce recidivism and improve health outcomes for criminal justice populations.

HJLC is an opportunity for county jails and community behavioral health organizations to work together to explore how these partnering systems work, identify barriers to accessing care and strategize how to overcome these barriers and implement change.

The Health Justice Learning Collaborative is free for participating organizations. In order to be considered, community behavioral health organizations (CBHOs) must be National Council members and have a pre-existing partnership with the local jail. Although the CBHO completes the application, a letter of commitment from the Sheriff agreeing to the partnership is required. If an organization is accepted into the Collaborative without membership, the applicant’s organization must join the National Council within two weeks of acceptance. More information about joining the National Council can be found here.

Goals and Objectives

With this in mind, the National Council for Behavioral Health, in partnership with MTM Services, has launched the first two cohorts of the initiative in six counties: Hennepin County, MN; Oakland County, MI; Travis County, TX; Kent County, MI; Aurora County, CO; and Norfolk County, MA. The National Council is now accepting applications for a third cohort.”

Through 12 months of customized technical assistance and training, this initiative will build on the success that these jurisdictions have achieved in screening and eligibility by refining discharge and intake processes to build efficient and effective systems of care that support coordinated reentry into the community, rapid access to behavioral health services and increased retention in care. To achieve these goals, county jails and CBHOs will need to enhance their processes and procedures around the following areas:

  • Discharge planning
  • Care coordination
  • Streamlined documentation
  • Concurrent collaborative documentation
  • Walk-in access models
  • No-show management
  • Employee engagement
  • Maximizing staff productivity



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