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Mental Health Network Meeting

On June 13-15, 2023, the National Institute of Corrections reconvened its latest in-person meeting of the Mental Health Network (MHN) at the National Corrections Academy in Aurora, CO. This annual event was previously paused for three years beginning in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MHN is composed of one representative director or chief of mental health services from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the six largest jail systems. MHN members have expertise in the delivery of correctional mental and behavioral health services and seek to advance this scientific field of study through innovative research strategies, training, and the dissemination of knowledge about evidence-based and best practices.

This year, nearly half of all attendees were new members, which may not be surprising considering that post-pandemic employee turnover was discussed during the network meeting as a critical issue affecting systems nationwide. Thousands of licensed mental health professionals have left their correctional positions for other opportunities. It is part of what some call the “Great Resignation,” and for corrections, it leaves many systems to augment unfilled positions with unskilled staff.

Transgender care was another hot topic with attendees examining the medical treatment and housing options for people based on their gender identification and status of sex reassignment. Legal issues were a major concern as was protecting the safety of incarcerated men and women who do not identify as transgender.

While addressed each year, the suicide rate of incarcerated individuals was another concern. Attendees were eager to find and share solutions that could prevent suicides in real time and at no cost.

The mission of MHN is to establish, support, and advance correctional mental and behavioral health standards so that jurisdictions may appropriately deliver constitutionally adequate and effective services to incarcerated individuals. The MHN strives to be the premier organization that correctional leadership turns to for guidance concerning mental and behavioral health questions, concerns, and affirmation.

an members of the Mental Health Network Meeting hosted at N I C's corrections academy