BHECON is excited to continue bringing together diverse stakeholders and leveraging data to spark legislative action and reforms to improve the lives of individuals living with serious mental illness. In year 3, BHECON will be narrowing focus to the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice.
Individuals living with serious mental illness and/or substance use disorders (SUD) are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, typically for non-violent crimes or low-level offenses. This suggests that lack of access to treatment for serious mental illness (SMI)/SUD is a factor in incarceration risk. Upon release, many individuals are not connected with community-based behavioral health services, which increases the likelihood of re-arrest.
Community-based treatment lowers the chances of reincarceration, decreases the burden on jails and prisons to provide mental health services and improves outcomes for these individuals by providing evidence-based treatment that can help them avoid arrest due to their condition. Unfortunately, policy discussions about how to ensure that people with SMI, who are also involved with the justice system, have access to adequate behavioral health care too often occur in industry-specific silos and are divorced from scientific and economic data on the impact of key reforms in both the behavioral health and criminal justice systems.
Applying data and successful models from around the country, BHECON will continue to advocate for both state and federal policy changes to better divert individuals in need of evidenced-based behavioral health treatment services from jails and prisons, provide access to treatment while incarcerated and increase the supports available to individuals once released from incarceration. BHECON Year 3 will also focus on SMI to ensure widespread public understanding of the need for additional treatment support in communities.
For more information or to get involved, please contact MichaelC@TheNationalCouncil.org.