Overview and Inventory of HHS Efforts to Assist Incarcerated and Reentering Individuals and their Families . Substance Abuse and Mental Health


Substantial evidence shows that the use and abuse of illegal drugs and the abuse of legal drugs — including alcohol, tobacco/nicotine, and prescription drugs — are prevalent health issues in incarcerated populations (Hammett, Roberts, and Kennedy, 2001). This use and abuse has implications for infectious and chronic diseases.  A Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) report indicates that in 2004, more than 80 percent of state prisoners report ever having used drugs, 70 percent report using drugs regularly, over half report having used drugs in the month before the offense and one-third were using at the time of the offense (Mumola and Karberg, 2006).

Mental illnesses are the second most frequently reported disorders among men and women incarcerated in state prisons. A survey on prisoner mental health completed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that over half of all prisoners (56 percent of state prison inmates, 45 percent of federal inmates, and 64 percent of those in local jails) reported either a clinically-diagnosed mental condition or treatment for a mental condition in the 12 months prior to the interview (James and Glaze, 2006). Studies have shown that the proportion of individuals with a serious mental illness within the correctional system is two to four times higher than that found in the general U.S. population (Hammett, Roberts, & Kennedy, 2001). Co-occurring disorders (mental health and substance use) are also high: About 74 percent of state prisoners and 76 percent of local jail inmates who had a mental health problem also met criteria for substance dependence or abuse.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) funded a total of 42 grants in FY 2009 and FY 2010 for Offender Reentry Program (ORP) projects. The program is designed to address the needs of sentenced substance-abusing juveniles and adult offenders returning to their families and communities from adult or juvenile incarceration facilities including prisons, jails, or juvenile detention centers. ORP projects expand and enhance community-based substance abuse treatment and related recovery and reentry services for sentenced juvenile and adult offenders returning from incarceration. Limited funding may be used for activities within a correctional setting.

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