March 26, 2015

Mentally Ill Inmates Get More Post-Release Services

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Despite fewer offenders being able to receive preventive treatment for mental illnesses in prison, more are getting set up with services when they leave.

To help mentally ill offenders transition back into society, the Corrections Department partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in 2006 to create a mental-health reentry program.

In 2014, an average 237 offenders per month were assisted by “reentry intensive care coordination teams,” which work under contract. That was up from 207 in 2013.

The program helps inmates connect with mental and physical health services before discharge and guide them through getting services after release. It has gotten national attention among prison mental health professionals, said Dr. Janna Morgan, who heads the mental health services unit at the Corrections Department.

The program has helped boost the rates at which mentally ill inmates use outpatient services, sign up for community-based services and enroll in Medicaid, the Corrections Department said. It also has helped reduce the share of inmates hospitalized for serious mental health issues, the agency said.

Three-year recidivism rates also dropped from 42 percent to about 25 percent, data shows.

“That’s a very effective program, based on the research we’ve done along with it,” Morgan said.