Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Series


Over the course of the next month we will be running a series of posts on the importance of a Justice and Mental Health Collaboration. This post is one of five. The series will dive into juvenile detention centers, mental health first aid, prevention and pretrial, and transitions of care. 

Serving populations with mental illness in the justice system has historically been reactionary and incongruent with proper treatment models.

According to statistics from a 2006 study conducted by the Bureau of Justice, mental illness is overwhelmingly prevalent in the criminal justice system. A large percentage of inmates in various facilities across the country are suffering from mental illness — 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners and 64 percent of jail inmates.

A primary factor that leads to such a high rate of mentally ill inmates is the lack of resources in communities around the country. Although behavioral health, on a whole, has been traditionally underfunded, a recent study published by the NASMHPD Research Institute says most states cut funding for a number of mental health services in 2010 and 2011, resulting in inadequate resources to identify, treat, and monitor those with Sever Mental Illness (SMI).

Many of the mentally ill who become incarcerated do not receive the care they need before, during or after their incarceration. These gaps in care lead to high recidivism rates as inmates with mental illness are more likely than others to return to jail or repeat criminal behavior after being released.

However, recent tragic events have increased awareness around the severe deficit in behavioral health care, prompting legislators to increase funding for mental healthcare. Moreover, the allocation of funds to appropriate programs that divert incarceration is paramount – particularly to new programs that increase Justice and Mental Health Collaboration such as Mental Health First Aid, mental health courts, proper discharge management, etc..

*Below is a chart from the Gains Center illustrating how justice and mental health collaboration can increase public safety and reduce the number mentally ill, trapped in a “revolving door cycle.”

Sequential Intercept Model for Justice and Mental Health Collaboration

Throughout this series, we will dive into sequential intercepts for proper Justice and Mental Health Collaboration.