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Mental Health, Substance Use Disorder, and the Justice System

New Riverside Program in Norfolk County Builds a Sustainable Model for Treatment

DEDHAM, MA – Riverside Community Care has received a five-year $1.4 million grant to provide behavioral healthcare and human services through a new program affiliated with the Norfolk County criminal justice system, MassHealth Behavioral Health Supports for Justice-Involved Individuals (BH-JI). With increasing insight into the relationship between mental health, substance use, and incarceration, the BH-JI program goals are to:

  • Establish a sustainable model to engage justice-involved individuals with mental health and substance use disorder conditions
  • Support effective, efficient healthcare utilization to improve health outcomes and decrease fatal overdoses
  • Connect eligible individuals to the vital support and community resources necessary in the crucial weeks and months following release

To reach people involved with the justice system who could benefit from treatment, Riverside has forged deep connections with the Norfolk County House of Correction and other Department of Correction facilities, probation offices, drug courts, police and fire departments, ambulances services, hospital emergency departments, and primary care providers. Already, Riverside clinicians are embedded in three Norfolk County police departments where they specialize in assessment, intervention, and referrals, to divert people away from incarceration whenever possible.

A Riverside BH-JI navigator reaches out to court and correctional facility officials to obtain referrals and connect with individuals. In one-on-one or group “in-reach” sessions at facilities, the navigator provides a detailed explanation of the program so people nearing release are far more likely to recognize the value of support, and to accept and stay engaged with services. The navigator then conducts detailed personal assessments focused on an individual’s unique needs and sets up appointments with recovery specialists and other health and social services, integrating care and addressing barriers such as physical healthcare, transportation, housing, and food. Studies show that if a person makes it to an appointment within a week or so following release from jail, they are far more likely to continue to engage in recovery.

As the new program is implemented, Riverside will draw on decades of experience gained in dozens of programs that serve individuals at the nexus of mental illness, substance use, and co-occurring disorders – often found in people who end up in the justice system. These programs include outpatient care and medication management for complex conditions, mobile Emergency Services teams, Community Crisis Stabilization settings to avert inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, Connect2Recovery substance use services, Adult Community Clinical Supports (ACCS), and the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) for persistent mental health challenges.

By providing the vital links among individuals, support services, and the justice system, Riverside plans to reach the justice-involved population at the moments just before and after release, or before a person in trouble is incarcerated – and to create a model for healthier lives and communities.

For more information about the Behavioral Health Justice-Involved program, please contact 781-234-1650 or email

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