This press release was originally posted on the Middlesex Sheriff’s website.

Middlesex Sheriff’s Office awarded $244,000 federal grant to assist individuals with mental health and co-occurring disorders

A quarter of a million dollar federal grant will help the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office enhance continuity of care for inmates with mental health and substance use disorders following the completion of their sentences, Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian and Congressman Michael Capuano (MA-07) announced today.

The MSO will utilize a $244,373 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP): Implementation and Expansion grant to partner with Advocates, a leading nonprofit provider of health and social services from central to eastern Massachusetts, to construct and execute a re-entry project assisting up to 60 individuals with mental health and co-occurring substance use disorders. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Governance Lab (MIT GOV/LAB) will serve as a research collaborator to evaluate the pilot project.

“The primary underlying drivers of incarceration for those in Middlesex County – as they are nationwide – are mental health and substance use disorders,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “This grant will help us work with community and academic collaborators to craft, implement and manage an initiative creating greater continuity of care for those leaving our custody. This will include individually-tailored re-entry plans, evidence-based interventions and other services supported by a navigator.”

In calendar year 2017, 48 percent of all individuals entering the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction reported a history of mental illness, while 41 percent required medical detox. A series of one-day snapshots conducted the prior year (2016) showed that 76 percent of those prescribed psychiatric medications also had a co-occurring substance use disorder.

“This is exactly the type of care initiative that should be implemented,” said Congressman Capuano. “Simply releasing individuals with known mental health and substance use issues from prison without giving them access to supportive services makes re-entry for them more difficult. It increases the likelihood that they will fail and return to prison. I applaud Sheriff Koutoujian, Advocates and the MIT GOV/LAB for forming this partnership and focusing on evidence-based rehabilitation and re-entry strategies.”

“Many people released from jail have serious mental health and substance use challenges – and often few resources and supports. Our re-entry services address the numerous needs that people have when they return to the community, and we are committed to working closely with the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office to replicate our community justice re-entry model and help improve the health and safety of Middlesex County,” said Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates.

“Better understanding the link between improved re-entry services and recidivism rates could be an important contribution to building trust between communities and government, as well as improved outcomes for those in the criminal justice system,” said Daniel Hidalgo, Professor of Political Science and MIT GOV/LAB Faculty Associate.

Originally authorized by Congress in 2004, the JMHCP seeks to increase public safety by facilitating collaboration among the criminal justice and mental health and substance use treatment systems to increase access to mental health and other treatment services for individuals with mental illnesses or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. The grant program is administered by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.