Feature Article: Drivers of County Engagement in Criminal Justice–Behavioral Health Initiatives

As part of the work for the Implementation Mechanisms of Justice and Behavioral Health (I.M. Justice BH) project, the research team (led by Drs. Alison Cuellar, Niloofar Ramezani, and Faye Taxman) published an article with Psychiatric Services, detailing the county-level characteristics that impact participation in initiatives to improve behavioral health care for justice-involved individuals. Read the full article here.

Highlights from the article include:

  • Only a quarter of U.S. counties participate in large initiatives to improve behavioral healthcare for justice involved individuals.
  • Participating and nonparticipating counties differed in law enforcement characteristics but not in violent crime or socioeconomic characteristics, such as income and income inequality.
  • Nonparticipating counties appeared to lack adequate behavioral health delivery infrastructure and the expertise to apply for participation in many criminal justice-behavioral health initiatives, further driving geographic disparities.

As a supplement to the work published in this article, the team produced a nationwide map (below) that overlays participation in these initiatives with an indication of whether the county is deemed a medically underserved area. Of the counties identified as medically underserved, only 10% participate in these initiatives to improve behavioral health care for justice-involved individuals, whereas 29% of the counties not identified as medically underserved participate in these initiatives.

Nationwide map that overlays participation in IM Justice BH initiatives with the medically underserved designation

See a PDF version of the map here.