Principles of Community-Based Behavioral Health Services for Justice-Involved Individuals: A Research-Based Guide

Individuals with behavioral health issues are overrepresented in jails and prisons across the United States. Community-based behavioral health providers have an essential role in serving individuals with mental and substance use disorders who are currently or formerly involved with the criminal justice system. This guide is intended to assist community-based behavioral health providers by offering information and practices that providers can implement in their practices with clients who are involved in the criminal justice system.

This guide highlights eight principles for building a community-based behavioral health treatment system that is responsive to individuals with mental and substance use disorders with histories of justice involvement:

  • Principle 1: Community providers are knowledgeable about the criminal justice system. This includes the sequence of events, terminology, and processes of the criminal justice system, as well as the practices of criminal justice professionals.
  • Principle 2: Community providers collaborate with criminal justice professionals to improve public health, public safety, and individual behavioral health outcomes.
  • Principle 3: Behavioral health treatment services use evidence-based and promising programs and practices to provide high-quality clinical care for justice-involved individuals.
  • Principle 4: Community providers understand and address criminogenic risk and need factors as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for justice-involved individuals.
  • Principle 5: Integrated physical and behavioral health care is part of a comprehensive treatment plan for justice-involved individuals.
  • Principle 6: Services and workplaces are trauma-informed to support the health and safety of both justice-involved individuals and community providers.
  • Principle 7: Case management for justice-involved individuals incorporates treatment, social services, and social supports that address prior and current involvement with the criminal justice system and reduce the likelihood of recidivism.
  • Principle 8: Community providers recognize and address issues that may contribute to disparities in both behavioral health care and the criminal justice system.

This guide also provides the answers to frequently asked questions for behavioral health providers serving justice-involved individuals.

This guide was first shared in 2019.

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