The Council of State Governments Justice Center (Justice Center) and National Institute of Corrections (NIC) announced the release of case studies on corrections/mental health initiatives in Kansas and Orange County, Florida. This resource is available for corrections administrators, mental health officials, and others interested in improving the response to people with mental illnesses transitions from jail or prison to the community.
In 2004, Kansas and Orange County, Florida were identified as jurisdictions where lessons learned about collaboration between the corrections and mental health systems could be of value to other communities.
“Leaders of state and local government will appreciate what the extraordinary collaboration between corrections administrators and mental health officials in Kansas and Orlando has yielded,” said NIC Director Morris Thigpen. “The challenges these leaders have faced are familiar to all counties and states whose jails and prisons are housing a growing number of people with mental illnesses.”
In Kansas, nearly 20 percent of the prison population had significant mental health needs; people with mental illnesses were 67 percent more likely than others to be reincarcerated within six months of their release. The Kansas case study describes how leaders of the Departments of Corrections and Social and Rehabilitation Services collaborated to jointly fund a specialized transition planning program, establish partnerships between the Department of Corrections and specific community mental health service providers, improve data sharing between agencies, and develop and manage specialized mental health parole caseloads.
In Orange County, a number of mental illness- and substance abuse-related deaths at the jail prompted sustained media coverage and urgent calls for reform. The Orange County case study describes how these incidents led to the formation of a Jail Oversight Commission, the construction of a central receiving center for individuals with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders who would normally be taken to jail or local emergency rooms, specialized law enforcement response teams, a pre-trial services program, and a post-booking treatment diversion program.
“The frank discussions in these documents about the significant obstacles that leaders in Kansas and Orange County continue to face provide valuable lessons for the field,” said Dr. James Reinhard, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services and Justice Center charter group member. “The case studies show the importance of developing meaningful collaborations with people who have a shared vision for successfully increasing public safety and improving outcomes for people with mental illnesses.”