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Improving the lives of justice-involved individuals with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system

A large component of our program of research informs practice, policy and future research to improve the lives of justice-involved individuals with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system including courts, jails, prisons and probation/parole. In partnership with the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, state agencies, as well as local criminal justice authorities, we conduct research on and evaluate mental health programs, policies and practices within criminal justice system, develop strategies to enhance the implementation and uptake of interventions at the interface of the mental health and criminal justice systems, and use research and evaluation results to inform real-world decisions at the local and state levels. Our program has engaged in a number of services and research projects across the criminal justice system

  • Improving access to evidence-based mental illness training for police officers
    • Conducted a study of an adaptation of crisis intervention training for police officers and sheriffs who encounter individuals with mental illness
  • Improving the impact of mental health courts for people with mental illness
    • Completed a randomized controlled trial of an adaptation of motivational interviewing for participants in a local mental health court;
    • Conducted a brief study of financial capability and participants in a local mental health court
    • Assisting the expansion of mental health courts and services across the state;
  • Improving jail screening, identification, and treatment of people with mental illnesses
    • Implementing an evaluation of mental health screening and triage in a local county jail
  • Improving prison outcomes for people with mental illnesses through art and research
    • Collaborating with the Vera Institute on a study examining the wellbeing of correctional officers in North Carolina prisons
    • Provide support for the Brushes with Life initiative which brings non-directive therapeutic art groups to inmates
  • Improving probation and community reentry outcomes for people with mental illnesses
    • Partnered with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to conduct validation studies of criminogenic risk assessment tools for probation and prison
    • Designed a statewide mental health training program for probation officers in North Carolina see Module
    • Conducting a randomized controlled trial of specialty mental health probation for probationers with severe mental illnesses
    • Engaged in exploratory research on defining and better understanding forensic assertive community treatment (FACT) eligible consumers

Technical Assistance

COREC strives to support existing technical assistance efforts by assisting with digitizing CECMH programs’ existing measures and tools, disseminating tools to programs throughout the state, and organizing and analyzing data for programs throughout the state. We are also working with the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research to create new opportunities for technical assistance for the Center’s programs and for other community providers across the state.

For example, in partnership with the Sheps Center, COREC has digitized the Assertive Community Treatment Transition Readiness Scale (ATR) for use by the CECMH’s ACT Step Down team (link here). The ATR is used by ACT teams across the state and country and is free to use in the public domain.

Program Evaluation

COREC collaborates with programs at the CECMH to design and implement program evaluations, which allows programs to measure their implementation process, program impact, efficacy, and outcomes. We work with programs to design plans for program evaluation and outcomes measurement, including data collection. COREC also assists with data analysis and interpretation, and helps programs develop short evaluation briefs.

Program evaluation plans are tailored such that they effectively measure different aspects of a program’s functioning and outcomes. The CECMH’s horticulture therapy program has been evaluated and program evaluation plans for the community mental health court and the supported employment program are underway. Horticulture Therapy Brief