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VOLUME 54 | NUMBER 3 | JUNE 2019


Do timely mental health services reduce reincarceration among prison releasees with severe mental illness?

Objective: To examine whether the receipt of timely mental health services is associated with changes in criminal justice interactions.

Data Sources: We used linked administrative data from Medicaid, mental health, and criminal justice settings in Washington State for persons with severe mental illness released from prison (n = 3086).

Study Design: We estimate local and average treatment effects to examine measures of criminal justice use in the year following release as a function of timely mental health services.

Data Extraction Methods: Measures of timely service and criminal justice use within 12 months postrelease were created from administrative data.

Principal Findings: Individuals receiving timely mental health services are more likely to experience prison reincarceration overall and specifically for technical violations 12 months postrelease. The effect of service receipt on incarceration for new charges was negative but not significant.

Conclusions: The finding that mental health services receipt is associated with increased risk of reincarceration due to technical violations speaks to the complexity of the relationship between mental health and criminal justice services for justiceinvolved persons with severe mental illness. Further research should examine strategies at the interface of criminal justice and mental health that can improve mental health and criminal justice outcomes for this vulnerable population.

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