SAMHSA’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation, operated by Policy Research Associates, Inc., and known nationally for its work regarding people with behavioral health needs involved in the criminal justice system, convened in 2021 four topical Communities of Practice (CoPs) to work intensively with select communities on the following topics:

  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in Reentry
  • Engaging Clients for Successful Reentry
  • Effectively Identifying & Treating Justice-Involved Individuals with Polysubstance Use Disorder
  • Building a Competent Crisis Care System at Intercepts 0-1

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About the Criminal Justice CoPs

Each CoP brought together local jurisdiction teams to create coordinated local strategic plans and implementation strategies for the topic of focus. Selected teams for each CoP will worked intensively to determine optimal ways to implement best practices and define success indicators for their respective CoP. Each topic-specific CoP engaged subject-matter experts to work with jurisdiction teams during the implementation process and facilitate peer-to-peer sharing. Through a virtual platform, selected teams worked together to learn and complete their implementation work while, at the same time, sharing with other jurisdictions and receive an array of technical assistance from subject-matter experts across the country. The CoPs were designed to achieve four key objectives:

  • Enhance collective knowledge of key issues and familiarity with the topic
  • Understand promising, best, and evidence-based practices to address the topic and related issues
  • Develop strategic plans that focus on the issue, including defining assignments, deadlines, and measurable outcomes to be reported
  • Increase knowledge about the challenges and lessons learned in implementing strategies through peer-to-peer sharing via virtual convenings, monthly collaborative calls, and other virtual mechanisms

Application and Selection Process

  • Applications for these solicitations closed on December 16, 2020
  • General requirements:
    • Narrative (up to five pages)
    • Expectations/guidelines will differ by CoP topic
    • List of key stakeholders who will participate in the team
    • Letters of support or commitment from key partners

CoP Topics

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in Reentry

Racial and ethnic disparities persist in many local and state criminal justice systems despite decades of reform efforts. These disparities exist across the criminal justice continuum, as the over-representation of People of Color is documented in law enforcement contacts, pretrial and sentenced populations, and community corrections supervision. People of Color are also at risk of recidivism after release, often due to barriers faced related to housing, employment, and social supports. People of Color also face challenges to accessing community-based mental health and substance use treatment, as well as treatment services that resonate with their perspectives, cultures, and values. Reentry programs often miss the opportunity to reduce disparities by failing to incorporate specific strategies and action steps that ensure equitable access and decision-making for people moving from incarceration to the community.

The goal of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in Reentry CoP is to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in reentry programs. This CoP is designed to support jurisdictions through a process from recognizing inequities that exist to implementing practice changes around service-delivery or decision-making points related to inequitable outcomes. This CoP will challenge participating reentry programs to begin implementing inclusive and informed strategies that actively address and reduce disparities.

Engaging Clients for Successful Reentry

More than half of people incarcerated in state prisons and two-thirds of people sentenced to jail have substance use disorders. For programs that provide services and supervision to people with substance use disorders returning to the community following terms of incarceration, obtaining housing and securing employment presents a major challenge. People with substance use disorders with criminal histories face barriers to housing and employment. Homelessness and residential instability make it difficult for people recently released from jail or prison to focus on their treatment and recovery from substance use disorders, maintain sobriety, obtain and retain employment, and comply with program and supervision mandates.

The goal of the Engaging Clients for Successful Reentry CoP is to enhance reentry program engagement among individuals returning to the community from jails and prisons by exploring policies and promoting successful practices and approaches related to housing, supported employment, telehealth/teleservices, substance use and mental health disorder treatment, and peer-based recovery services.

Effectively Identifying & Treating Justice-Involved Individuals with Polysubstance Use Disorder

The Effectively Identifying & Treating Justice-Involved Individuals with Polysubstance Use Disorder CoP seeks to build treatment capacity for treating polysubstance use, including opioids, stimulants, alcohol, and other substances. Communities should have an interest in expanding medication-assisted treatment and/or adding/expanding other psychosocial, evidence-based interventions designed to treat opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders, including individuals with challenges related to polysubstance use. As part of this CoP, there will be a discussion of multi-modal approaches to care (e.g., biopsychosocial, integrative medicine approaches, therapy, contingency management, mindfulness, peer supports, etc.) with an emphasis on continuity of care and linkages to these interventions.

Building a Competent Crisis Care System at Intercepts 0-1

The Building a Competent Crisis Care System at Intercepts 0-1 CoP will explore policies and practices to build and enhance a competent crisis care system. Through participation in this CoP, selected sites will work to improve strategies related to components of a crisis care system, including 911 and crisis line integration, mobile crisis response, community alternatives to emergency department and inpatient dispositions, and partnerships with law enforcement.

Communities will be expected to work with current and new stakeholders, including local hospital leadership, behavioral health providers providing crisis response services, treatment providers, housing agency director(s)/local public housing authority directors, peer-based recovery support services, 911 call takers/mental crisis call centers, and law enforcement.

Informational Webinar Materials

To learn more about these events and to gain insight into preparing a strong CoP application, please download the informational webinar slides and Q&A document.