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Improving Responses to People Who Have Co-occurring Mental Illnesses and Substance Use Disorders in Jails

NCJ Number
Deirdra Assey; Sarah Wurzburg
Date Published
May 2020
8 pages
Based on collaboration with correctional health and community-based behavioral health providers, this brief outlines how jail administrators and staff can improve their responses to jail residents with co-occurring mental illness and substance-use disorders.
The first section of the brief discusses safety considerations. The safety issues identified and discussed pertain to the safety of the jail residents with the co-occurring disorders, other jail residents, and the jail staff who interact with residents with co-occurring disorders. The second section of the brief covers best practices for addressing co-occurring disorders in jail. The practices discussed are standard screening, assessment, case management, pre-release and post-release services, and performance measurement. The final section of the brief discusses comprehensive training for jail staff. This section notes that by partnering with correctional health and behavioral health treatment providers, jails can provide training to help officers and other staff learn how best to improve their responses and continually practice and refine their skills. Topics that should be covered in training include recognizing signs and symptoms of co-occurring disorders, basic crisis intervention, identifying who is responsible for assessing co-occurring disorders, treatment that is available in the jail for residents with co-occurring disorders, referral options for diversion, and how to coordinate with correctional health or behavioral health providers. After receiving initial training, jail officers should have periodic training to reinforce best practices and learn new practices related to the management of residents with co-occurring disorders. 1 figure