Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2010, $500,000)
The New Jersey Probation Service Division (PSD) of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) was awarded $5.4 million over two years to implement 30 specialty mental health probation officers (SMHPO) in 21 counties. These SMHPOs supervise caseloads of approximately 25 probationers with mental illnesses (PMI). The project proposes a rigorous, mixed methods process and outcome evaluation of this direct service initiative funded under the Recovery Act: Edward Byrne Memorial Competitive Grant Program, Category II. The goal is to rigorously test the program fidelity, outcome effectiveness, and cost effectiveness of the Specialty Mental Health Probation Unit (SMHPU). The evaluation will examine violations, arrests, convictions, revocations, jail days and mental health treatment compliance, symptom reduction and alcohol/drug use outcomes compared to (a) the same outcomes in the previous 12 months (pre-post quasi-experimental design); (b) a matched sample of PMI without SMHPOs and (c) a random sample of PMI without SMHPOs (experimental design). Cost analyses will measure the direct costs of probation supervision, police arrests, court processing, and jail days. The sample will consist of all probationers referred to the SMPHU over a 12-month period and all probationers with mental illness supervised by the traditional probation unit (TPU). The expected SMHPU target population is adult female and male probationers referred to and determined eligible for the SMHPU (approx. 750-1500). The total including TPU probationers is n = 3500 (with at least 100 per county). Methods of data collection will include site observational visits, face-to-face interviews, focus groups, PSD administrative data extracts, and PSD record reviews. Site visits will be conducted at 6-month intervals (Objective 2) and outcome interviews at baseline, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months post assignment to the SMHPU (Objective 3). Standard criminal justice and behavioral health instruments will be used to collect outcome data. Two instruments will be developed specific to the intervention: Case Referral Form and SMHPU Program Fidelity Instrument.