Magazine article Corrections Today

Iowa's Dual Diagnosis Offender Program

Magazine article Corrections Today

Iowa's Dual Diagnosis Offender Program

Article excerpt

Established in 1976, the First Judicial District Department of Correctional Services in Iowa is a community-based correctional agency serving an 11-county area in northeast Iowa. It provides services to include pretrial, presentence investigation, probation and parole, and community residential correctional facilities. Over the years, the department recognized the unique problems dually diagnosed offenders posed for the criminal justice system. The term "dually diagnosed"--or the more updated and commonly used term "co-occurring"--refers to individuals with at least one major mental health disorder and a substance abuse dependency. Challenges with this population have included the lack of proper assessment services for early identification and referral of these special needs offenders; poor integration of treatment services among mental health, substance abuse and corrections; the unnecessary expensive commitment of these offenders to jails, prisons and hospitals; and untrained correctional staff with high caseloads.

Of the total number of offenders in the First District assessed using the Level of Service Inventory-Revised, 77 percent have indicators of substance abuse and emotional/personal issues. This has been a steadily rising percentage, reflected also in national statistics.

The National GAINS Center for People with Co-Occurring Disorders in the Justice System was established in 1995 as a locus for the collection and dissemination of information about effective intervention strategies for offenders with co-occurring disorders. It is a federal partnership between two centers of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, administered by the National Institute of Corrections. The GAINS Center recommends several key principles of treatment, including treatment integration, individualized programming, appropriate medication, tailored interventions, community treatment and support networks.

In response to these needs, in September 1998, the First Judicial District Department of Correctional Services established a community-based treatment program within an all-male, 155-bed correctional facility in Waterloo, Iowa. (On Dec. 1, 2003, a similar program, with much regard to gender differences, was implemented for female offenders in the First Judicial District; however, this article solely focuses on the program implemented for male offenders in Waterloo.) The structured treatment program was designed to identify, educate and treat those offenders under the supervision of the First Judicial District who suffered from co-occurring substance abuse/dependence and severe and chronic mental illness disorders. The Waterloo Residential Correctional Facility established a 16-bed unit for male clients. The overall goal of the Dual Diagnosis Offender Program was to enhance the potential of the client to be able to establish and live a law-abiding lifestyle with a stabilized mental condition, free of chemical dependency. Program objectives included diverting dually diagnosed clients from lengthy incarcerations in local and state institutions, as well as enhancing communication, coordination of services and understanding of client needs between agencies involved in services with this population.

Corrections partnered with a local mental health agency as well as a community substance abuse treatment program to address those issues. Both providers have employees working directly out of the corrections setting, creating a confluence of services for the client. Clients are afforded intensive treatment within the facility by the treatment team, which includes a residential probation/parole officer, mental health counselor, substance abuse counselor, residential supervisor, probation/parole supervisor, transitional/aftercare probation/parole officer and a psychologist.


The Dual Diagnosis Offender Program is funded through federal, state and county funding. Federal residential substance abuse treatment dollars are the main thrust of program support, funding a psychologist, a full-time mental health provider and a full-time substance abuse treatment provider. …

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