Inmates Lose Their Mental Health Treatment Options Once Incarcerated

Developing a commission to raise public awareness of mental health and substance abuse issues in Iowa's corrections system

In 2001, the Community Corrections Improvement Association developed a project informing the public, the media and policymakers about mental health issues facing prison inmates in Iowa and their impact on community safety.

The association is a private foundation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that supports the efforts of the Department of Correctional Services in Iowa's Sixth Judicial District.

Key Findings

  • Consensus among responding participants that the state is not meeting its legal obligations across nine mandates addressing mental health services for those in Iowa's corrections system.
  • A view that a lack of communication between the state's mental health providers, funders and corrections staff is a key problem.
  • A sense of urgency among those involved in the issues to address the underlying causes of these shortcomings.
  • Support for several tested solutions, although respondents stated that no single fix would succeed.
  • The vast majority of responding participants believed that increasing mental health and substance abuse services to prisoners would have a positive impact on public safety following inmates' release back into the community.

Funding
The project was partially supported by a $50,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Other support came from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation ($25,000) and the National Institute of Corrections and the Council of State Governments (in-kind support of approximately $25,000).

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