Strengthening Families and CommunitiesExpanding Access to Health Care

Substance Use and Mental Health

It’s by now a truism that the criminal justice system and jails in particular are a dumping ground for people with substance use and mental health problems. Virtually no corner of the system is untouched, and much of Vera’s work with our government partners around the country addresses the challenges associated with identifying mental health needs and responding appropriately.

That expansive body of work includes a project to address the challenges public defenders face when representing clients with a mental health problem, with the goal of improving representation and case outcomes. Another explores systemic changes, as opposed to reactive measures, that correctional facilities can take to prevent the widespread problem of suicide and other serious self-harming behavior among incarcerated people. And we produced a groundbreaking study of the positive effects of reforming New York's infamous Rockefeller drug laws. We also work with law enforcement to ensure that harm reduction strategies are implemented as a response to substance use, and that best practices that divert people with mental illness from the justice system to the health system are supported. 

Related Work

Sharing Behavioral Health Information across Justice and Health Systems

Opportunities in the District of Columbia

People with mental health and substance use problems are overrepresented at all stages of the criminal justice system in the United States. However, decision makers, health care providers, and staff often work with only a fraction of the behavioral health information that exists about their clients. Expanding the availability of behavioral health d...

Publication
  • Marilyn Sinkewicz, Yu-Fen Chiu, Leah Pope
December 07, 2018
Publication

Serving Safely

The National Initiative to Enhance Policing for Persons with Mental Illnesses and Developmental Disabilities

Serving Safely is a national initiative designed to improve interactions between police and persons affected by mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. The initiative has offered free remote and on-site assistance to police departments and prosecutors’ offices through training, evaluation, and guidance specific to requesting agencies' need...

Project
  • Rebecca Neusteter
    Rebecca Neusteter
Project

Corrections-Based Responses to the Opioid Epidemic

Lessons from New York State's Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution Program

As the opioid crisis has swept the nation, more and more states are equipping their first responders and police officers with naloxone, an overdose antidote that reverses opioid overdoses and can be administered by bystanders with minimal training. This report details the efforts of New York State to implement an overdose education and naloxone dis...

Publication
  • Vedan Anthony-North, Leah Pope, Stephanie Pottinger, Izzy Sederbaum
March 22, 2018
Publication