This paper presents the results of a qualitative study designed to explore and identify the resources that probation officers need to implement specialized mental health probation caseloads, a promising practice that enhances mental health treatment engagement and reduces recidivism among people with mental illnesses. Our research team conducted a directed content analysis guided by the Practical, Robust Implementation and Sustainability Model (PRISM) to analyze qualitative interviews with 16 specialty mental health probation officers and their supervising chiefs. Results indicated five components and resources related to multiple PRISM constructs: (1) meaningfully reduced caseload sizes (intervention design), (2) officers’ ability to build rapport and individualize probation (organizational staff characteristics), (3) specialized training that is offered regularly (implementation and sustainability infrastructure), (4) regular case staffing and consultation (implementation and sustainability infrastructure), and (5) communication and collaboration with community-based providers (external environment). Agencies implementing specialized mental health probation approaches should pay particular attention to selecting officers and chiefs and establishing the infrastructure to implement and sustain specialty mental health probation.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The qualitative data generated and analyzed in this study are not publicly available because study participants voluntarily participated under the agreement that their data would be anonymized. Full interview transcripts, though de-identified, may still permit individuals to be identified due to the provision of other details including work place, years of service, and participation in specific training. Excerpts of qualitative data are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Aarons, G. A., Hurlburt, M., & Horwitz, S. M. (2011). Advancing a conceptual model of evidence-based practice implementation in public service sectors. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 38(1), 4–23.
Becan, J. E., Fisher, J. H., Johnson, I. D., Bartkowski, J. P., Seaver, R., Gardner, S. K., et al. (2020). Improving substance use services for juvenile justice-involved youth: Complexity of process improvement plans in a large scale multi-site study. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-019-01007-z.
Belenko, S., Knight, D., Wasserman, G. A., Dennis, M. L., Wiley, T., Taxman, F. S., et al. (2017). The juvenile justice behavioral health services cascade: A new framework for measuring unmet substance use treatment services needs among adolescent offenders. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 74, 80–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2016.12.012.
Birken, S. A., Lee, S. D., Weiner, B. J., Chin, M. H., & Schaefer, C. T. (2012). Improving the effectiveness of health care innovation implementation. Medical Care Research and Review, 70(1), 29–45. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077558712457427.
Bowser, D., Henry, B. F., Wasserman, G. A., Knight, D., Gardner, S., Krupka, K., et al. (2018). Comparison of the overlap between juvenile justice processing and behavioral health screening, assessment and referral. Journal of Applied Juvenile Justice Services, 2018, 97–125.
Compton, M. T., Bahora, M., Watson, A. C., & Oliva, J. R. (2008). A comprehensive review of extant research on crisis intervention team (CIT) programs. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, 36(1), 47–55.
Council of State Governments. (2002). Criminal justice/mental health consensus project. New York: Council of State Governments.
Crilly, J. F., Caine, E. D., Lamberti, J. S., Brown, T., & Friedman, B. (2009). Mental health services use and symptom prevalence in a cohort of adults on probation. Psychiatric Services, 60(4), 542–544. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.60.4.542.
Curran, G. M., Bauer, M., Mittman, B., Pynt, J., & Stetler, C. (2012). Effectiveness-implementation hybrid designs: Combining elements of clinical effectiveness and implementation research to enhance public health impact. Medical Care, 50(3), 217–226. https://doi.org/10.1097/mlr.0b013e3182408812.
Ditton, P. (1999). Mental health and the treatment of inmates and probationers. U.S: Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, DC.
Eno Louden, J., & Skeem, J. (2011). Parolees with mental disorder: Toward evidence-based practice. Bulletin of the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, 7(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10979-010-9223-7.
Eno Louden, J., Skeem, J. L., Camp, J., & Christensen, E. (2008). Supervising probationers with mental disorder: How do agencies respond to violations? Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35(7), 832–847.
Eno Louden, J., Skeem, J. L., Camp, J., Vidal, S., & Peterson, J. (2012). Supervision practices in specialty mental health probation: What happens in officer-probationer meetings? Law and Human Behavior, 36, 109–119. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0093961.
Feldstein, A. C., & Glasgow, R. E. (2008). A Practical, Robust, Implementation and Sustainability Model (PRISM) for integrating research findings into practice. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety., 34(4), 228–243.
Friedmann, P. D., Wilson, D., Knudsen, H., Ducharme, L., Welsh, W., Frisman, L., et al. (2015). Effect of an organizational linkage intervention on staff perceptions of medication-assisted treatment and referral intentions in community corrections. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 50, 50–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2014.10.001.
Ghezzi, M., Van Deinse, T. B., Crable, E. L., Cuddeback, G. S., Buck, K., Brewer, M., et al. (2020). Adapting a clinical case consultation model to enhance capacity of specialty mental health probation officers. Perspectives, 44(2), 40–49.
Hsieh, H., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277–1288.
Kennealy, P. J., Skeem, J. L., Manchak, S. M., & Eno Louden, J. (2012). Firm, fair, and caring officer–offender relationships protect against supervision failure. Law and Human Behavior, 36, 496–505. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0093935.
Kitchener, B. A., & Jorm, A. F. (2002). Mental health first aid training for the public: Evaluation of effects on knowledge, attitudes and helping behavior. BMC Psychiatry, 2(1), 10.
Kitchener, B. A., & Jorm, A. F. (2006). Mental health first aid training: review of evaluation studies. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40(1), 6–8.
Knight, D. K., Belenko, S., Wiley, T., Robertson, A. A., Arrigona, N., Dennis, M., et al. (2016). Juvenile Justice—Translational research on interventions for adolescents in the legal system (JJ-TRIALS): A cluster randomized trial targeting system-wide improvement in substance use services. Implementation Science, 11, 57. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13012-016-0423-5.
Manchak, S. M., Skeem, J. L., Kennealy, P. J., & Eno Louden, J. (2014). High-fidelity specialty mental health probation improves officer practices, treatment access, and rule compliance. Law and Human Behavior, 38(5), 450. https://doi.org/10.1037/lhb0000076.
Martino, S., Carroll, K., Kostas, D., Perkins, J., & Rounsaville, B. (2002). Dual diagnosis motivational interviewing: A modification of motivational interviewing for substance-abusing patients with psychotic disorders. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 23(4), 297–308.
McGrath, R. J., Cumming, G., & Holt, J. (2002). Collaboration among sex offender treatment providers and probation and parole officers: The beliefs and behaviors of treatment providers. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 14(1), 49–65.
Monico, L. B., Mitchell, S. G., Welsh, W., Link, N., Hamilton, L., Redden, S. M., et al. (2016). Developing effective interorganizational relationships between community corrections and community treatment providers. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 55(7), 484–501. https://doi.org/10.1080/10509674.2016.1218401.
O’Brien, B. C., Harris, I. B., Beckman, T. J., Reed, D. A., & Cook, D. A. (2014). Standards for reporting qualitative research: A synthesis of recommendations. Academic Medicine, 89(9), 1245–1251.
Porporino, F. J., & Motiuk, L. L. (1995). The prison careers of mentally disordered offenders. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 18(1), 29–44. https://doi.org/10.1016/0160-2527(94)00025-5.
QSR International Pty Ltd. (2018). NVivo qualitative data analysis software, Version 12.
Skeem, J. L., Emke-Francis, P., & Eno Louden, J. (2006). Probation, mental health, and mandated treatment a national survey. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 33(2), 158–184. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854805284420.
Skeem, J. L., & Eno Louden, J. (2006). Toward evidence-based practice for probationers and parolees mandated to mental health treatment. Psychiatric Services, 57(3), 333–342. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.57.3.333.
Skeem, J. L., Manchak, S., & Montoya, L. (2017). Comparing public safety outcomes for traditional probation vs specialty mental health probation. JAMA Psychiatry, 74(9), 942–948. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.1384.
Skeem, J. L., Eno Louden, J., Polaschek, D., & Camp, J. (2007a). Assessing relationship quality in mandated community treatment: Blending care with control. Psychological Assessment, 19, 397–410. https://doi.org/10.1037/1040-3522.214.171.1247.
Skeem, J., Eno Louden, J., Polasheck, D., & Camp, J. (2007b). Assessing relationship quality in mandated community treatment: Blending care with control. Psychological Assessment, 19(4), 397–410.
Skeem, J. L., & Petrila, J. (2004). Problem-solving supervision: Specialty probation for individuals with mental illness. Court Review, 40, 8–15.
Steadman, H. J. (1992). Boundary spanners: A key component for the effective interactions of the justice and mental health systems. Law and Human Behavior, 16, 75–87. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02351050.
Van Deinse, T. B., Bunger, A., Burgin, S., Wilson, A. B., & Cuddeback, G. S. (2019). Using the consolidated framework for implementation research to examine implementation determinants of specialty mental health probation. Health and Justice, 7(1), 17.
Van Deinse, T. B., Cuddeback, G. S., Wilson, A. B., & Burgin, S. E. (2017). Probation officers’ perceptions of supervising probationers with mental illness in rural and urban settings. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(2), 267–277. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-017-9392-8.
Van Deinse, T. B., Cuddeback, G. S., Wilson, A. B., Lambert, M., & Edwards, D. (2018). Using statewide administrative data and brief mental health screening to estimate the prevalence of mental illness among probationers. Probation Journal, 66(2), 236–247. https://doi.org/10.1177/0264550518808369.
Welsh, W. N., Knudsen, H. K., Knight, K., Ducharme, L., Pankow, J., Urbine, T., et al. (2016a). Effects of an organizational linkage intervention on inter-organizational service coordination between probation/parole agencies and community treatment providers. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 43, 105–121. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-014-0623-8.
Welsh, W. N., Prendergast, M., Knight, K., Knudsen, H., Monico, L., Gray, J., et al. (2016b). Correlates of interorganizational service coordination in community corrections. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 43(4), 483–505. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854815607306.
Wolff, N., Epperson, M., Shi, J., Huening, J., Schumann, B. E., & Sullivan, I. R. (2014). Mental health specialized probation caseloads: Are they effective? International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 37, 464–472. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlp.2014.02.019.
The authors would like to acknowledge Stacey Burgin, Alex Lombardi, Alina Mason, and Reah Siegel for assistance with data collection and analysis.
This qualitative study was funded by the Fahs Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation. The parent study was funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (2015-SM-BX-0004). In addition, the first and second authors are supported by the Lifespan/Brown Criminal Justice Research Training Program.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Van Deinse, T.B., Crable, E.L., Dunn, C. et al. Probation Officers’ and Supervisors’ Perspectives on Critical Resources for Implementing Specialty Mental Health Probation. Adm Policy Ment Health 48, 408–419 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-020-01081-8