Mental Health Services


NCCHC publishes standards and offers a voluntary accreditation program geared to the treatment of incarcerated individuals with mental illness. These tools can help facilities determine proper levels of care, organize systems more effectively and efficiently, and demonstrate that constitutional requirements are being met.

Why a separate set of standards? Mental health care has been integral to the NCCHC standards and accreditation program from the start. When the first standards were developed in the 1970s—with the input of mental health professionals—it was decided to integrate medical and mental health standards to encourage a unified and holistic approach to inmate care.

But as the number of incarcerated persons with mental illness has soared, systems are developing new strategies for providing treatment to these inmates. For example, some have opted to manage mental health services under a legal authority separate from their other correctional health services. NCCHC’s mental health standards and accreditation program were designed for correctional facilities in which the legal authority for mental health services is separate from their other correctional health services, and both parties are not already accredited under the Standards for Health Services for jails or prisons. This way, a correctional mental health services program may seek accreditation even if the health services counterpart is not. While it is always beneficial to pursue accreditation as a unified health care delivery system, this accreditation option is available to mental health services programs for the achievement of excellence in mental health services organization and delivery.

Intended for correctional facilities of any size, these standards parallel those for health services in format and substance, but they are more explicit in what is required for adequate delivery of mental health services. Likewise, the mental health services accreditation program operates in the same manner as that for health services.