MONDAY, JUNE 7, 1999202/307-0703



WASHINGTON, D.C.--Criminal justice and mental health practitioners and policy makers in communities across the country will soon have a new publication with the latest strategies for responding to the needs of the significant number of people with mental illness who come in contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

The Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is now gathering and will soon disseminate a broad range of promising prevention and intervention strategies. The Department of Justice is announcing this new resource in conjunction with today's White House Conference on Mental Health, chaired by Tipper Gore.

Programs in selected jurisdictions that show promise in addressing the needs of people with mental illness and mental health and substance abuse disorders who are involved in the criminal justice process will highlight this first-of-its-kind resource. The resource will include information on how similar programs can be launched and sources for technical assistance. Beginning in the fall of 1999, the promising strategies will be widely disseminated, integrated in training seminars and other forums, as well as made accessible on the DOJ Website.

The number of mentally ill who are caught up in the justice system is significant. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that the prevalence of mental illness in prisons and jails ranges between 10 to 15 percent of inmates. At midyear 1998, those percentages would indicate that between 180,000 to 270,000 mentally ill offenders were incarcerated.

Estimates for the number of persons incarcerated with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders appear to be even higher. The National GAINS Center for People with Co-Occurring Disorders in Contact with the Justice System estimates that at any given time, approximately 500,000 individuals in the justice system have co-occurring disorders.

The promising strategies guide will focus on: Police officer and corrections staff training to handle mental health crises; ensuring state and local agencies have all the information on the full range of prevention programs; providing prevention and intervention strategies at various stages of the justice system; and facilitating implementation of the strategies through integration into the curriculum and training of the National GAINS (Gathering information, Assessing what works, Interpreting the facts, Networking with key stakeholders, and Stimulating change) Center.

Information about other OVC programs, publications and conferences is available through OVC's web site at

Information about other bureaus and program offices in the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is available at Media should contact OJP's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.

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OVC 99-129