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Study: intervention model keeps people with mental illness in treatment, out of jail

Jun 5, 2017

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People with serious mental illness who have been arrested for misdemeanor crimes are less likely to end up with additional criminal convictions and stay in treatment longer with the right combination of interventions, according to a new study.

Dr. Steven Lamberti , professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, admits that their intervention model, called R-FACT for short, is not the first. Across the country and state various organizations have been actively working on other treatment models.

“It’s like cooks that are all preparing spaghetti sauce. Some are making red sauce, some are making clam sauce, some are making cream sauce. Nobody quite knew how to do it,” Lamberti says.

With a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, Lamberti and colleagues standardized a model, in part based on the other ones out there, but with one ingredient in particular that he says makes the “magic happen” –  mental health and criminal justice professionals working together.

“When you put together two experts from disparate fields, that’s when you start having creative solutions – that’s when you have more cards in your hand to play,” Lamberti says.

To test the model, Lamberti and colleagues recruited 70 adults with psychotic disorders who were arrested for misdemeanor crimes. The study found that the participant’s criminal convictions, jail time and hospitalizations were reduced by about 50 percent.

Funding for the R-FACT model was phased at the close of the study.

“There’s a need beyond research,” Lamberti says. “We’ve been doing research here in Rochester – this has been our laboratory – and we’ve been implementing the program in other places. We’re hopeful with our next grant that we’ll have an opportunity to partner with New York state.”