FFIMI Partnership with Mass General Hospital Center of Excellence (COE) for Psychosocial and Systemic Research

FFIMI is Featured in the MGH Center of Excellence Summer Newsletter

We are excited to share about an important partnership that has been formed between the MGH COE and FFIMI. They reached out to us to learn about our lived experience and understand our concerns. The result was the formation of The Correctional Psychiatry Working Group. Carol Lim, MD of MGH and FFIMI’s Donna Winant partnered on an article for their summer newsletter, the theme of which is mental illness and criminal justice involvement.

The following is an introduction to the MGH Center of Excellence Summer Newsletter by Cori Cather, PhD, Center Director.

“Our Summer 2021 newsletter centers on the theme of mental health and criminal justice involvement. For too many people with psychiatric illnesses who are caught up in the legal system, the interface between psychiatric care and correctional settings is unjust, arbitrary, and ultimately ineffective in helping them: patients are not receiving psychiatric care for their illness, and they are not receiving effective rehabilitation services to facilitate reintegration into society. As a result, people and their families become entangled in systems of care that are kafkaesque, without a clear path out of cycles of admissions to psychiatric and correctional settings. This state of affairs is a loss for people affected, their families, and for society.” 

Community-Academic Partnership to Improve the Psychiatric Care of Justice-Involved Individuals with Serious Mental Illness

by Donna Winant, FFIMI Director and Carol Lim, MD, MPH

Academic Perspective
The Correctional Psychiatry Working Group was formed within the MGH Schizophrenia Clinical and Research Program in November 2020. The group consists of mental health professionals at MGH who are based in Boston, MA. Our members also provide care to patients outside of MGH in the Suffolk County jails, affiliated community mental health clinics, and programs funded by the MA Department of Mental Health. Our goal is to promote recovery-oriented psychiatric treatment of individuals with SMI and criminal justice involvement, through a partnership with community stakeholders.

As a first step, we connected with FFIMI and held a meeting with the FFIMI Steering Committee to understand their lived experiences and identify their needs. Four priority areas were identified:

  1. Equipping mental health centers with screening tools to identify those at risk for criminal justice involvement and prevent incarceration,
  2. Improving processes by which mental health clinicians in correctional facilities engage family members in treatment planning during the initial months of incarceration,
  3. Delivering resources and psychoeducation to caregivers to assist with navigating the legal and treatment systems, and
  4. Scaling up mental health services within correctional facilities. 

FFIMI helped solidify our first action plan, which is to focus on the fourth priority area of scaling up mental health services within correctional facilities, specifically by proposing to create a specialized psychiatric unit within the Suffolk County jails in Boston, MA.

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