Standards of Care: Mental Health in Our Jails and Prisons…Now What?

Standards of Care: Mental Health in Our Jails and Prisons...Now What?
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-04-28
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Standards of Care
Unit 2 Transcript: Standards of Care
Unit 3 Workbook: Standards of Care
Unit 4 Recording: Standards of Care

Correctional health care is public health care – if we can release the inmate population much better than we found them, communities are made safer and stronger. This is how Jim Martin highlights the value of investing in health care in jails and prisons. Right now, jails and prisons are becoming interim mental health facilities. This only stresses the importance of providing mental health care services in detention and correction facilities. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) aims to provide guidelines and standardize protocols and services provided in jails and prisons surrounding mental health care.

To lead this discussion is Jim Martin, the Vice President for Program Development at the NCCHC. He has served for more than 20 years in law enforcement in different capabilities for the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office in Southern Indiana. He also served as a consultant with the Major County Sheriff’s Association (MCSA).

In this session, Jim unpacks the importance of implementing mental health service standards in correctional facilities. Specifics include:

  • An overview of the NCCHC – what it is, its mission, the supporting members, and the work it is involved in.
  • A primer on the major court decisions that established the right to free service for health needs in the jail and prison setting and extending this to include mental health services.
  • The current challenges that jails and prisons face when it comes to providing effective mental health care services.
    • The continuously increasing number of mentally ill inmates in jails which requires increasing support services as well.
    • The crisis-oriented transitory affects that may influence an inmate’s mental wellness while detained or incarcerated.
    • The varying sentence structures that may create anxiety and instability for inmates.
    • The clinical challenges that hinder proper identification and resolution of the issues.
    • Environmental factors that may impact mental wellness due to lack of autonomy, control, and certainty.
  • The principles of incident risk management through identification of mental health care aspects in facilities, implementing good practices, and monitoring and studying its effectiveness.
  • The common mistakes/risk incidents in the jail and prison setting and the corresponding NCCHC standards that can mitigate these.
  • Exploring the NCCHC standards.
    • The Comprehensive Quality Improvement (CQI) Plan ensures that problems are identified, effectiveness of processes are analyzed, thresholds are determined, and corrective action plans are implemented.
    • Receiving Screening: How it detects potential problems, and the questions and details that must be included and considered in screening
    • Communication and Staff Training as a means to better elucidate the needs of the population, the practices to put into place, and solutions to implement.
    • Clinical Performance Enhancements to evaluate mental health clinicians’ effectiveness of service.
    • Mental Health Assessment and Evaluation to be conducted to examine the ability and preparedness to address non-emergency health care requests.
    • Suicide Prevention and Discharge Planning to monitor suicide ideation and setting inmates up for success through warm handoff to community resources after release.
  • NCCHC Resources that may be used to adhere to NCCHC requirement and standards and apply best practices

Topics discussed during the Q&A are on:

  • Accreditation of Military Correctional Facilities.
  • Accessing the NCCHC Standards Manuals.
  • The scope of Clinical Performance Enhancement.
  • Educating and involving others on the importance of mental health care in jails and prisons.
  • A more cohesive discharge planning for those that need mental health attention.
  • Identifying co-occurring intellectual/developmental disabilities.
  • Utilizing Stepping Up case managers in the care transition process.


Handouts and Resources


Audience Comments

  • “I enjoy learning the different ways to address issues with providing mental health services.” — Alexandra
  • “We all need to work together for the sake of the community. Also, not only should be watching the offender, but ourselves as well. There are a lot of people with mental health issues who work in the criminal justice system.” — Amanda
  • “It is good to see what standards there are out there, and compare to what we are already doing, for example, CIT Training, intake questions, alternate courts, cooperation with existing local MH services, and so on.” — David
  • “I liked hearing that the barriers I face are similar in other facilities, although I will say that I think the jail where I work does a good job of identifying those with mental health issues and conveying their concerns to me as the jail therapist.” — Kate
  • “I loved how Jim highlighted discharge planning and collaboration; the warm hand off, having individuals leave the jails better than when they arrived, when staff feels included, they work better together. Jim also has the Mental Health and Correctional lenses which him a great authority on mental health in correctional facilities. Bravo!” — Jena
  • “The author presented himself as very well versed on the subject matter. Well done!” — Kim



Additional Resources
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