New Mental Health Certification Is First to Address Growing Need for Mental Health Expertise in Corrections

Posted Jul 11, 2013

The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that more than half of all jail and prison inmates have a mental illness. As more services are required to treat and manage this growing population, mental health professionals will be challenged to provide the best care under their professional, legal and ethical obligations in the unique correctional institution environment. To address this need, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care has developed the first specialty certification in correctional mental health, Certified Correctional Health Professional – Mental Health, or CCHP-MH.

Experts cite the declining levels of mental health care in the community as a reason for the growing number of inmates with mental illness. Unfortunately, correctional facilities have become a leading source of mental health care for those lacking access. Inmates with untreated mental illness require care within the institution, stay longer, return more often, can cause major management problems and are more likely to commit suicide. More than ever, correctional institutions require trained mental health professionals who can meet these growing challenges. The CCHP-MH specialty certification will support a standardized level of knowledge, will help mental health professionals build a foundation of expertise and will help facilities evaluate the expertise of their staff.

"NCCHC’s mental health certification provides an excellent opportunity for correctional mental health providers to demonstrate their unique knowledge to their employers,” says Thomas Fagan, PhD, CCHP, associate professor of psychology, Nova Southeastern University and chair of the task force that developed the program. Fagan continues, “It also provides recognition that correctional mental health is a specialty area of clinical practice in an environment that is both challenging and expanding in scope.” This recognition will be especially important as more mental health practitioners are sought to work in the field.

The CCHP-MH task force was appointed by NCCHC through the Certified Correctional Health Professional board of trustees in late 2012. The task force is composed of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and licensed professional counselors and includes some of the top experts in the field. After analyzing the need for the certification, piloting the exam, performing item analysis and vetting each item, the task force determined that the program was ready to launch. NCCHC will hold the first examination in October 2013.

“The NCCHC board recognizes the hard work of the task force and the tremendous accomplishment they have achieved in completing this groundbreaking program,” says NCCHC Board Chair Judith Robbins, JD, LCSW, CCHP-A. “As the first correctional mental health specialty certification, it will be a huge resource to the field in identifying practitioners with unique knowledge and identifying common knowledge that is necessary to succeed.”

The following requirements must be met to apply for mental health specialty certification:

  • Be a qualified mental health professional as defined by the Standards for Mental Health Services in Correctional Facilities (2008) MH-A-02: “psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric social worker, licensed professional counselor, psychiatric nurse, or others who by virtue of their education, credentials, and experience are permitted by law to evaluate and care for the mental health needs of patients”
  • Hold current CCHP certification, a graduate level (master’s and above) degree, professional licensure and the equivalent of three years of full-time practice in a correctional environment

To complete an application, visit The first examination will be held at NCCHC’s National Conference in Nashville, TN, on October 27. The application deadline is September 20.

Attendees to the NCCHC Correctional Mental Health Care Conference in Las Vegas in July will receive a special application discount. Attendees can learn more about CCHP-MH by attending session 336 on Monday, July 22, titled “Mental Health is Advancing – Are You? New Correctional Mental Health Specialty Certification.”

For more information on the first specialty certification for correctional mental health care, visit