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NIC initiatives speak to advocacy in correctional health care.

Today's correctional systems are becoming increasingly populated with substantial numbers of people with co-occurring disorders (e.g., mental illness and substance abuse) and people with acute and chronic medical diagnosis. Three of the top six issues from a June 2010 membership survey of the Association of State Correctional Administrators highlighted health-related concerns--mentally ill inmates in prisons, the cost of inmate health care and aging inmate populations--as issues most prevalent and pressing in member agencies. (1) Since its inception in 1974, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) has promoted the exploration of critical issues and shaped public policies that improve the effectiveness, efficiency and humane quality of practices that impact corrections. There are several NIC initiatives that address mental health, substance abuse, and public health concerns in community corrections, prisons and jails.

Developing Partnerships

In late 2009, under the auspices of NIC, the Association of Correctional Mental Health Administrators (ACMHA) was established. Although ACMHA and its members do not represent NIC or speak on NIC's behalf, it is a national association of professionals employed by the 50 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons who direct mental health services and programs for departments of correction. There is one representative for each jurisdiction. ACMHA members dialogue monthly through a virtual Web-based forum and meet annually face to face. Work groups, including the Treatment and Special Populations work groups, leverage their collective resources in support of ACMHA's three-fold mission to provide:

* A forum for the dissemination of information and knowledge;

* An organization that furthers the field of correctional mental health; and

* An opportunity to delineate and define the applications of best practice in a corrections environment.

Facilitating the Development of Resources

Last year, NIC awarded a cooperative agreement to the Council of State Governments' Justice Center for the development of a comprehensive resource titled Working with Mental Illness in Corrections: A Framework. Strategies, and Best Practices. In 2011, NIC is looking forward to making this guide available to corrections practitioners and policymakers who are managing mentally ill offenders in custody and/or those who are under community supervision.

In early February 2011, NIC published the first quarterly issue of Corrections & Mental Health: An Update of the National Institute of Corrections. This electronic publication, edited by Russ Immarigeon, provides new and useful information to corrections practitioners who strive to improve and establish the quality and overall framework of care within their local, tribal and state correctional systems. Health researchers and corrections professionals are encouraged to submit articles for publication as well as subscribe to receive regular article updates. Complete submission guidelines and subscription details are available on the NIC website. (2)

Raising Awareness With Targeted Training

On April 6, 2011, a multidisciplinary work group consisting of a patient advocate, a financial manager, and several jails and prisons clinicians (pharmacists, psychologists, psychiatrists and a registered nurse) produced Reduce Costs, Lower Risks, Enhance Healthcare Services: The Promise of Effective Pharmaceutical Management, a satellite/Internet broadcast sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections. This satellite broadcast kicked off an NIC informational series that will discuss the off-label use of medications; pharmacy and therapeutics committees and formulary principles; nontraditional drugs of abuse/misuse; evidenced and scientifically based quality of care for inmates; formulary management's unique tie to clinical practice guidelines; and fiscally responsible prescribing without negative patient outcomes. At a time when many states and local jurisdictions are struggling with the management of pharmaceutical expenditures, rising inmate health care costs, and corrections budgetary constraints, NIC anticipates that this informational series will most benefit those responsible for direct service delivery.

NIC has also been instrumental in helping jurisdictions realize the benefits of using crisis intervention teams (CITs). NIC's program. Crisis Intervention Teams: A Frontline Response to Mental Illness in Corrections, allows participants to learn the tools, strategies, and techniques that will, allow corrections staff, mental health service providers and advocates to work together to develop and implement a crisis intervention team. Participant teams (consisting of a correctional representative, a consumer advocate and a mental health professional) learn the core elements of a locally developed and owned CIT for managing mental illness in prisons, jails and community corrections. Teams will learn how to develop collaborative partnerships and implement a CIT model that takes a team approach to engaging community stakeholders.

Providing Technical Assistance

NIC's extensive Technical Assistance Program responds directly to the needs, problems, and individual requirements of state and local correctional agencies. This technical assistance could include:

* On-site guidance, support and consultation;

* Training provided by an experienced technical resource provider or NIC staff member who serves in an advisory capacity and works with agency staff; and

* Cost coverage of a practitioner's visit to another agency to observe effective practices.

A correctional agency that is providing mental health, substance abuse, or public health correctional services may also request assistance to:

* Assess programs and operations;

* Implement effective practices;

* Improve agency management, operations and programming;

* Refine the design, delivery, management and evaluation of staff training programs; and

* Assist in the development of offender job training and placement efforts.

Correctional health care improvements depend largely upon local and state correctional systems' abilities to continue engagement in effective, coordinated, efficient and humane health care practices for individuals incarcerated in their facilities. NIC looks forward to addressing these priorities by leveraging its resources to positively impact correctional health care.


(1.) Results from the survey can be found online at

(2.) To inquire about the opportunity to contribute articles, you may also contact the editor directly at, or visit

Anita Pollard, RN, is corrections health manager for the National Institute of Corrections and a commander in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. For more information about NIC's health initiatives, contact her at (202) 616-2800 or For information about other NIC programs, visit
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Title Annotation:NIC Update
Author:Pollard, Anita
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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