Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA) is proud to announce the publication of a new article from our Criminal Justice Program Area written by Senior Research Associate, Dr. Lisa Callahan and Program Area Director, Mr. Chanson Noether. The article, “Brief Jail Mental Health Screen Utilization in U.S. Jails,” was recently published in Journal of Forensic Medicine Forecast, a peer-reviewed, open access journal devoted exclusively for the publication of high-quality manuscripts in the fields of forensic medicine.

In the article, Callahan and Noether research the usage and prevalence of the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (BJMHS) in jails across the United States. The BJMHS is a validated 8-question screen that can be administered by jail or treatment staff to identify mental health needs among detainees. This booking tool was developed by PRA in 2003 with funding from the National Institute of Justice. It was validated by the SCID, a standardized clinical evaluation tool, and during its validation was administered to 357 detainees. The SCID evaluation verified that the BJMHS is correct in identifying the need for further mental health assessment in 73 percent of male detainees and 62 percent of female detainees. The BJMHS is in the public domain as an open resource for use and was widely believed to have high usage in jails across the country for mental health screenings, however, research on its usage had not been conducted. In their research, Callahan and Noether found that of the 695 jails sampled, 614 (88.3 percent) of jails screen for mental disorders, and 180 (29.3 percent) of those use the BJMHS. The article concludes that:

“Overall, the BJMHS has been shown to be a valuable screening tool in jails. In those jails that use the screen, nearly all jails screen every person at booking. It is a further endorsement that nearly two-thirds of responding jails adopted the BJMHS in the first 3 years from development and are still using it up to 11 years later.”

The BJMHS requires little formal training and was developed to be easy and effective to implement so that jail detainees may be given the opportunity to have their needs recognized and receive further assessments and supports. Understanding the value and usage of tools developed by PRA, such as this research has done with the BJMHS, helps us further recognize the impact of our work and drive our mission of creating positive social change.