Mental Health Reintegration Services’ Eligibility Is Too Limited

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By CPPP Policy Analyst Katharine Ligon and CPPP Mental Health Policy Intern Lauren Rosales

35 percent of individuals incarcerated in Texas prisons today struggle, or have struggled, with some form of mental illness. Research and experience have shown that after release, those individuals who receive continuity of mental health care and reintegration services are far less likely to find themselves in the justice system again.

But limitations on the mental illnesses qualified for post-release treatment are doing a disservice to individuals with high mental health needs upon release. HB 1908 seeks to change that by expanding the diagnoses eligible for post-release continuity of care.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical and Mental Impairments (TCOOMMI) provides re-entry services to individuals with a mental illness and a recent history of incarceration to assist with their successful reintegration and continuity of medical services. However, only three specific diagnoses are eligible for services through TCOOMMI’s reentry program: bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia, which are known as the “Big 3.” Individuals with other mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, are not eligible for continued mental health treatment after release. While treating the “Big 3” is important, those diagnoses represent only 12 percent of the 35 percent of individuals with a history of mental illness.

HB 1908, which was heard by the House Corrections Committee last week, would allow TCOOMMI to provide services to individuals with high mental health clinical needs and a high risk level for recidivism, regardless of a specific diagnosis.

It is critical that individuals with mental illness have access to reintegration services, because they are more likely to be rearrested or reincarcerated than individuals without mental illness. TCOOMMI reintegration services are proven to be effective at reducing recidivism rates for participating individuals. In comparison to a 23 percent recidivism rate for the general Texas prison population, the 2014 three-year recidivism rate for TCOOMMI case management participants was 11 percent.

CPPP supports HB 1908 to increase access to a continuity of mental health services for individuals upon release from correctional facilities.

Read our full testimony on HB 1908 here.

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