Mental Health Treatment
A Supervision Tool
Mental health treatment is a tool that helps U.S. Pretrial Services Officers supervise or monitor defendants in the community. Treatment, which includes services such as psychological/psychiatric evaluations; individuals, family , or group counseling; and medication, is provided to persons who suffer from mental health problems. These person either are under pretrial supervision while awaiting a court appearance, on probation, or on parole or supervised release after serving time in prison. Treatment is ordered either by a U.S. Magistrate Judge or U. S. District Court Judge, as a condition of releasing defendants to the community.
Mental health treatment provides officers with the ability and means to identify, assess, and provide care for defendants with mental disorders.
Treatment helps officers enforce the conditions imposed by the court, control the danger defendants and offenders with mental health problems may pose to society, and promote law-abiding behavior. For defendants under pretrial supervision, treatment helps officers reasonably assure that these persons appear in court and that society is protected from potential harm.
Mental health treatment helps defendants and offenders in many ways. It helps them address issues that may have led to their problems with the law. More importantly, it puts in motion strategies aimed at stabilizing them so they do not present a danger to themselves or others. Thus, treatment maximizes public safety and the person’s potential for living and functioning effectively in the community.
What is a Mental Health Problem?
A defendant is considered to be suffering from some form of mental disease or defect when the individual’s behavior or feelings deviate so substantially from the norm as to indicate disorganized thinking, perception, mood, orientation, and memory. Mental health disease or defect may range from the mildly maladaptive to the profoundly psychotic and may result in:
- Unrealistic thinking
- Marked inability to control impulses
- Grossly impaired judgment
- Aberrant behavior
- An inability to care for oneself or meet the demands of daily life
- A loss of contact with reality
- Violence to oneself or others.
What these individuals may suffer from ranges from anxiety and depression to more chronic disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or pedophilia.
Treatment maximizes public safety and the person’s potential for living and functioning effectively in the community.
Identifying Mental Health Problems
Officers identify persons with mental health problems in various ways. Individuals may come to the probation or pretrial services office already diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Or, the officers may identify these persons through information in case files, interviews with the individuals and their families and friends, or consultation with mental health professionals.
An important consideration in identifying persons with mental health problems is whether they also are substance abusers. These types of cases include individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders and require officers to develop supervision plans that address both problems.
Licensed/certified psychiatrists, psychologists, or masters-level counselors, clinicians, and other professionals in the community provide treatment under an agreement with the United States courts. These treatment providers meet the standards of practice established by their state’s professional regulatory board. The Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, under 18 U.S.C. 3672, has the authority to “contract with any appropriate public or private agency or person for the detection of and care in the community of... a person suffering from a psychiatric disorder...” Blanket purchase agreements or purchase orders are awarded through a competitive process. The officer serves as coordinator of treatment services, matching the defendant with appropriate treatment providers, monitoring the person’s progress in and compliance with treatment, controlling procurement funds, and overseeing the various treatment providers. No single treatment approach will help every person who requires mental health treatment. To be able to address a defendant’s individual needs, officers must solicit for various services, including:
- Psychological/psychiatric evaluation and testing.
- Individual, group, and family counseling.
- Sex offense-specific individual or group therapy for sex offenders.
- Sex offense-specific evaluations for sex offenders.
- Substance abuse counseling.
- Transportation to and from treatment facilities.
- Emergency financial assistance for food or clothing.
- Clinical consultation between officers and mental health professionals to discuss supervision issues.