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For Immediate Release
April 21, 2011

Jeanne Atkinson, DHHS Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-8287
Michael Overton, Crime Commission Information Services Division, 402-471-3992
Dawn-Renee Smith, NDCS Legislative and Public Information Coordinator, 402-479-5713

Study Shows Overlap of Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Systems

Lincoln – A joint project of three state agencies that work with consumers of behavioral health services and with incarcerated individuals provides information and baseline data for Nebraska, showing an overlap of the systems.

“We’ve heard stories anecdotally about people involved with both systems and we have our own experiences” said Scot Adams, director of the Division of Behavioral Health for the Department of Health and Human Services. “This study gives us real data and provides opportunities for better cooperation and understanding among all of us.” Behavioral health includes both mental health and substance abuse diseases.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (Crime Commission) and the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) researched five years of data, from January 2005 to December 2009.

“We’ve seen increased interest across the country to improve the response to people with behavioral health diagnoses who come into contact with the criminal justice system,” said Bob Houston, director of the Department of Correctional Services. “We all want to leverage our limited resources, do the best at what each agency does, avoid confusion between our systems, and operate at the lowest possible cost while ensuring public safety.”

The project studied the overlap between the systems; that is, how many individuals were involved with both the behavioral health and criminal justice systems. During the five years:

  • 11,209 unique individuals were admitted to the state’s prisons. Of these, 3,682 (33%) were also involved with community-based behavioral health services and 258 (2%) had also received regional center care during that time.

  • 144,479 unique individuals were admitted to jails across the state. Of these, 32,955 (23%) were also involved with community-based behavioral health services and 880 (.6%) had also received regional center care during that time.

  • 68,558 unique individuals were served by the community-based behavioral health system. Of these, 3,682 (5%) were in prison and 32,955 (48%) were in jail during this time period.

  • 1,768 unique individuals were admitted to the state’s regional centers. Of these, 258 (15%) were admitted to prison and 880 (50%) were admitted to jails during this time.

The project also began to identify information about the timing of involvement in the different systems; for example, whether admission to jail or prison came before or after behavioral health services were received.

“Our next steps will look deeper at these issues,” said Mike Behm, executive director of the Crime Commission. “We want to identify ways we can help the jails and others work better together as well as encourage coordination within our areas of responsibility.”

The project was funded through a grant from the Federal Center for Mental Health Services, State Mental Health Data Infrastructure Grants for Quality Improvement, awarded to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health. A summary of the study can be found on the Web at