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Women on probation or parole more likely to experience mental illness

March 27, 2012
by News release
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A new report released at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Advisory Committee for Women’s Services meeting shows that women aged 18 to 49 on probation or parole are nearly twice as likely to experience mental illness as other women. The study, conducted by SAMHSA, showed that almost half of women in this age range who had been on probation (49.4 percent) and more than half on parole (54.2 percent) in the past year had experienced some form of mental illness -- compared to 27.5 percent of women who had not been on probation or parole.

“This report highlights the very real need for providing better behavioral healthcare for women emerging from the criminal justice system,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Providing these services not only meets a vital public health need, but is a very sound investment since it can prevent many at-risk women from returning to the criminal justice system. Since women play a vital role in families, schools, business, and government, the recovery of women to productive lives can have an enormous positive impact on America’s communities.”

The study also found rates of serious mental illness (defined as mental illness that substantially limits major life activities) were two to three times higher for women who had been on probation (21.5 percent) or on parole (28.5 percent) than for women who had not been on probation or parole (7.8 percent).  Research indicates that women in the criminal justice system with untreated mental health problems have greater difficulty reintegrating into their families and communities and are more likely to re-offend than those without mental health problems.

SAMHSA, through the SAMHSA GAINS Center, provides technical assistance support with a primary focus on expanding access to community based services for adults diagnosed with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders at all points of contact with the justice system. The center provides technical assistance to the field, related to Adult Treatment Court Collaboratives and Jail Diversion Trauma Recovery programs. There is also a special section of resources at the center specifically to help women involved with the criminal justice system. Further information can be accessed at http://gains.prainc.com/topical_resources/women.asp.

The report entitled, Data Spotlight: Half of Women on Probation or Parole Experience Mental Illness, is based on data analyzed from SAMHSA’s 2008-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. The report is available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/spotlight/Spot063WomenParole2012.pdf.

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