Correctional Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders: Results of a National Survey

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The significant expansion of correctional populations in the last decade, coupled with the gradual erosion of community treatment infrastructure and health insurance, have brought greater attention to the needs of offenders who have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Individuals with co-occurring disorders frequently cycle through acute care facilities in the community and increasingly are placed in jails or prisons. Approximately 16% of inmates in correctional facilities have major mental health disorders (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999), and a large majority of these inmates have co-occurring substance use disorders. Few studies have examined the effectiveness of correctional treatment for co-occurring disorders, and there is little information available regarding clinical and programmatic approaches used with this population. The current study provides findings from a comprehensive national survey of co-occurring disorder treatment programs in correctional settings. A total of 20 co-occurring disorder treatment programs from 13 state correctional systems were identified and surveyed. Many of the programs featured modified therapeutic communities, but there was significant diversity in the duration of treatment and type of services provided. Several unique structural and clinical modifications to treatment have been developed in these settings. Implementation of co-occurring disorder treatment programs has led to enhanced collaboration with prison health services and community supervision and treatment agencies, and greater use of interdisciplinary staff to provide outreach and case management services. Research is now being conducted to examine outcomes in several of these correctional treatment programs.

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Behavioral Sciences & the Law, v. 22, issue 4, p. 563-584