On Language and Limits; Missions and Mental Health

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In this article, a long-time provider of technical assistance for the National Institute of Corrections discusses how jail leaders can promote a mission-focused discussion of the jail’s role in community mental health. Severson contrasts the specialized roles of jails and the community mental health system and provides a rationale for avoiding “mission creep.”

The jail’s core mission is to provide safe and secure custody of persons who are legally confined. By articulating and advocating for that mission, and its boundaries, jail administrators can contribute greatly to the development of true mental health solutions for their communities.

Severson also suggests several practical actions jail leaders can take now to optimize the delivery of mental health care in their facilities.

By Margaret Severson, J.D. and M.S.W., Professor, School of Social Welfare, the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

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