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Measuring Mental Health in Criminology Research: Lessons From the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia program

NCJ Number
Lubica Forsythe
Date Published
29 pages
This report describes and analyzes the process and challenges inherent in measuring mental health needs of persons in police custody who have been charged with a crime in Australia, with a focus on information collected as part of Australia's Drug Use Monitoring System (DUMA).
The study determined that existing DUMA questions provide limited information on detainees' mental health. Following a comprehensive literature review of mental-disorder screening instruments, the Corrections Mental Health Screen (CMHS) developed by Ford et al. (2009) was selected for trial as an addendum to the current DUMA questionnaire. Overall, the CMHS performed well; however, it would be useful to develop mental health screening instruments that have demonstrated validity with Australian offenders of both genders, Indigenous backgrounds, and across custody situations. Prior to the current trial in Australia, the CMHS had been tested on only American offender populations. Accurate screening instruments can assist with the identification of current and unmet mental health needs, which is arguably one of the most relevant issues in planning health services for offenders. Screening information provided by a large ongoing source of information such as the DUMA program may not only provide information for individually focused rehabilitative efforts, but also suggest solutions that might be implemented at a broader societal or systemic level. The trial methodology design and implementation are described in detail, along with the assessments of mental health screening instruments considered for the trial. 1 table, extensive references, and appended CMHS survey questions