Part I: current Responses to Individuals with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders and Corrections Involvement
Screening and Assessment In order to identify individuals’ needs that are associated with mental illness, substance abuse, and recidivism, corrections administrators need to ensure that personnel use evidence-based screening and assessment tools. Shortly after individuals’ entry into the criminal justice system, and as needed thereafter, they should be screened for substance use, mental health disorders, and the potential presence of both by trained staff. For some individuals, being booked into a jail may provide the first opportunity to detect and diagnose a behavioral health disorder. Screening tools for substance abuse and mental illness are designed to quickly answer a “yes–no” question: Could the individual have a behavioral health disorder? Those who screen “positive” should be referred to a behavioral health professional for further assessment Offenders with behavioral health or a comprehensive evaluation. Clinicians use needs pose a significant challenge for correctional practitioners the assessment process to confirm the presence and it is important to remember of disorders, identify problems, and recommend that these individuals often have the appropriate type and level of services. Proper multiple barriers and risk factors assessments require careful attention and adequate that need to be addressed. time to determine if medical conditions or substance Assessment is the engine that use could account for abnormal mood, behavior, or drives effective interventions thinking. The choice of screening and assessment and is the first step in designing instruments is guided by the nature of the population, programs that work.” costs, staff skills, and community resources.* —Ed Latessa, Professor and
Director of the School of Criminal Criminogenic risk factors also should be Justice, University of Cincinnati identified at the earliest stage of criminal justice involvement, and individuals should be reassessed over time if dynamic factors may have changed. Pretrial and court services intake forms, with appropriate information-sharing agreements, can complement the screening and assessment processes within jails and prisons. These types of collateral documents provide information that can be essential to determining risk of reoffense and revocation, as well as treatment and social service needs.94 Information from all sources can then be used to help guide the development of community supervision strategies and case management plans that maximize the use of limited resources.
Determining which screening and assessment tools are the most appropriate to use and how they should be applied will depend largely on the population for which risk and need are being assessed. There are a number of established risk/need assessment instruments that have been validated for specific corrections settings. Staff must be trained on the correct administration and scoring of the instruments, as well as on *Additional information on available screening and assessment instruments for mental illness and substance use disorders can be found in Roger H. Peters, Marla G. Bartoi, and Pattie B. Sherman, Screening and Assessment of Co-Occurring Disorders in the Justice System (Delmar, NY: CMHS National GAINS Center, 2008).