Report 2001-104 Summary - August 2001
Department of Corrections:
Though Improving, the Department Still Does Not Identify and Serve All Parolees Needing Outpatient Clinic Program Services, but Increased Caseloads Might Strain Clinic Resources
Our review of the Parole Outpatient Clinic Program (program) at the Department of Corrections (department) found that:
- The program's new continuum process, while an improvement over its previous process, still does not identify and serve nearly 40 percent of mentally ill parolees.
- In 38 of the 83 cases we reviewed, social workers did not perform prerelease assessments, and 45 parolees were not seen by the clinics within required time frames.
- A new data management system, when implemented, may address some of the program's weaknesses, but it would be more effective if linked to other department computer systems.
- One-third of the parolees served by the program are not diagnosed with a mental illness but fit other criteria established by the department.
- The program should establish caseload standards and use its new system to identify its cost of serving different types of parolees so it can manage expected caseload increases.
RESULTS IN BRIEF
The Department of Corrections (department) provides treatment and supervision to mentally ill parolees through its Parole Outpatient Clinic Program (program). However, it has failed to identify and treat a significant number of these parolees. Although a new process has effected some improvement, between October 2000 and March 2001 the department failed to detect and serve 39 percent of inmates (about 2,400) who had been diagnosed as mentally ill and were being released on parole. For those it did identify, the program did not always complete assessments that determine what treatments the parolees will require or provide services within specified periods. By failing to detect and promptly assess mentally ill parolees, the department exposes the public to increased risks. The program believes that contractors it recently hired to assume the responsibility of performing prerelease assessments will complete them more efficiently and help clinics see parolees sooner.
The program is implementing a new computerized data management system to improve its ability to transfer mentally ill inmates to its services once paroled and to schedule appointments within prescribed time frames. However, because the program had not yet fully implemented the new system at the time of our fieldwork, we could not assess its effectiveness. Furthermore, the program plans to continue to use its current method of identifying mentally ill inmates being released to parole, which relies primarily on a list that the department's institutional computer systems generate. However, this list does not always include all inmates being paroled who require treatment at the parole outpatient clinics (clinics). Therefore, to more effectively recognize all mentally ill parolees, the program should link its system directly to other key department systems.
One of the reasons the program has not been able to treat all mentally ill parolees adequately is that it has used its resources to treat many parolees with problems other than mental illness, such as those with histories of violent crimes or serious sex offenses. Between October 2000 and March 2001, more than 30 percent (or 3,000) of the parolees served by the program had no diagnosis of mental illness. According to the program, the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, which provides oversight to the department, requested the program to provide services to paroled sex offenders and violent criminals. However, because the department has failed to identify many of these parolees, they have not received treatment either. If the department had identified all these parolees, the program might lack the capacity to serve them in addition to the mentally ill. Therefore, the department should ensure that the program identifies and has resources available to meet the needs of all the parolees it is required to serve. Further, many recent changes both inside and outside the program will likely increase the demand for clinic services and highlight the program's need to increase its effectiveness. To meet the challenges this expected growth poses, the program needs to establish caseload standards for its clinicians so that it can adequately monitor caseloads and ensure it has sufficient resources.
To help ensure that the public is adequately protected from parolees who were diagnosed as mentally ill while in prison, the program should fully implement its new data management system. The program should then develop a monitoring process to ensure that its contractors complete prerelease assessments on all mentally ill inmates scheduled for parole and that its clinics see parolees within required time frames.
To more effectively identify all the parolees the program will serve, including those with problems other than mental illness, the program should link its new data management system to other department computer systems containing the information it needs to do so.
To better identify the costs of treating parolees and justify changing needs for resources, the program should track the amount of time and resources it spends treating the different types of parolees and develop caseload standards for its clinicians.
To determine the progress the program has made in identifying and serving mentally ill and other parolees, the department should assess the program one year after implementing the new data management system. The department should submit the completed assessment to the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency.
The department generally agrees with our conclusions and recommendations. It believes the findings will assist it in completing the implementation of this program.