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Mental Health Screens for Corrections

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2007
24 pages
This paper reports on the findings and implications of two research projects that developed and validated mental health screening instruments that corrections staff can use during intake.
The researchers created short questionnaires that have accurately identified inmates who required mental health interventions. One mental health screening instrument, the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (BJMHS), was proven effective for men and is being adapted for women. The other screening instrument, the Correctional Mental Health Screen (CMHS), has versions that are effective for identifying mental disorders for both men and women. The CMHS for women and the CMHS for men were developed by first presenting to study participants a 25-minute composite of all the questions (n=53) from 4 separate existing screening instruments. Study participants were 2,196 adults detained in 5 Connecticut jails. Approximately 20 percent of the participants were randomly selected to come back 1-5 days later for a lengthier clinical assessment. Statistical analysis was performed separately by gender in order to determine the questions with the most statistical sensitivity, specificity, and predictive power in measuring nine clusters of mental health disorders. These included current depressive disorders, current anxiety disorders, antisocial personality disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Further statistical analysis reduced the instruments to 38 items for women and 40 items for men. The final analysis reduced the instruments to 8 items for women and 12 items for men, each of which take 3-5 minutes to administer. These final versions were validated on an additional group of 206 participants. The BJMHS was directly derived from the Referral Decision Scale (RDS), which was designed to detect signs and symptoms of severe impairment stemming from serious mental health disorders. The number of RDS items was reduced from the original 14 to 8 items by eliminating those items that had questionable validity. 20 notes and appended instruments

Date Published: May 1, 2007