Jails and prisons house significantly greater proportions of individuals with mental, substance use, and co-occurring disorders than are found in the general public. Upon release from jail or prison, many people with mental or substance use disorders lack access to services and, too often, fall into a recurring, costly cycle of involvement with the justice system.

Experts in the justice, behavioral health, and public policy fields agree that by providing behavioral health support services to these people in transition they can increase their chances of returning to healthy and productive lives in the community.

To support this goal, SAMHSA recently released Guidelines for Successful Transition of People with Mental or Substance Use Disorders from Jail and Prison: Implementation Guide. The guide provides behavioral health, correctional, and community stakeholders with approaches for effectively transitioning people with mental or substance use disorders from institutional correctional settings into the community. The guide also promotes the Assess, Plan, Identify, and Coordinate (APIC) approach to identifying various successful evidence-based strategies that work across jurisdictional systems, and describes 10 guidelines. These include –

  1. Conduct universal screening.Guidelines for Successful Transition - publication cover
  2. Follow up positive screens with comprehensive assessments.
  3. Design individual treatment plans.
  4. Develop collaborative responses that match need and risk.
  5. Identify interventions in transition planning practices.
  6. Establish policies to facilitate continuity of care.
  7. Coordinate justice system and community services.
  8. Share information to advance cross-system goals.
  9. Encourage cross training.
  10. Collect and analyze data.

These APIC approaches have been successfully implemented in communities throughout the nation such as Allegheny County, PA.; Franklin County, MA; Gwinnett County, GA.; Hampden County, MA; Hancock Count, OH; Montgomery County, MD.; and Pima County, AZ. It has also been adopted on a statewide basis in Hawaii, North Carolina, and New York.

“Reentry assistance provides justice and behavioral health agencies the opportunity to identify and address barriers that prevent people with mental and substance use disorders from integrating and thriving in communities,” said Captain David Morrissettee, Ph.D., LCSW, with the U.S. Public Health Service in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. “The guidelines help providers give people the best opportunity to overcome these barriers and stay connected to community supports.”

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