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Improving Access to Mental Health Services for New York State Prison Inmates

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Health Care Volume: 14 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2008 Pages: 122-135
Kristine M. Gebbie R.N.; Roland M. Larkin N.P.; Susan J. Klien M.S.; Lester Wright M.D.; James Satriano Ph.D.; John J. Culkin M.A.; Barbara S. Devore M.P.A.
Date Published
April 2008
14 pages
This article describes a multidisciplinary, multiagency approach to improve access to mental health services for individuals incarcerated within the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS).
The goal of a standardize prison screening program for mental health using an evidence-based tool should improve the identification and referral for treatment of incarcerated individuals. Screening, detection, and subsequent treatment of inmates mitigate the adverse consequences of untreated mental illness in the correctional setting and the communities to which they are released. Screening for mental illness in the DOCS system, although required, has not used a standard assessment tool. The workgroup for this study used a consensus process to review psychiatric screening tools that might meet the needs of the DOCS and OHM staff and inmates. No single tool met those needs, and a new tool was derived from two other reliable and valid screening tools. This tool, the New York State Brief Screening Tool (NYS BST), was tested for feasibility and validity in a pilot study that demonstrated that it was easily administered by staff and well tolerated by inmates. In addition to improvement of mental health services in the State prison system, this tool could be shared with the local correctional facilities from which most inmates are transferred. A common understanding of screening for and subsequent identification of mental health problems would increase coordination of services and likely increase the positive impact on prisoner mental health. This interagency systems improvement initiative has the potential to improve quality of care and health outcomes for NYS prison inmates during and after incarceration and to foster greater integration of psychiatric services system-wide, within DOCS’ network of correctional facilities. Tables, figure, and references