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Part of incarceration is rehabilitation, and that includes behavioral health services. As a health system that meets the needs of everyone in the community, MetroHealth works with those in the prison system while they are incarcerated, and then bridges the gap as they transition back to society.

Incarcerated patients who get mental healthcare have a better chance at successfully completing treatment for root causes that may have led to criminal issues in the first place. These root causes may include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and addiction.

“A lot of times if people have a history of trauma, abuse, mental health conditions, substance use, or any types of concerns in the way of mental health, they have a tendency sometimes to use coping mechanisms or self-soothing strategies that are sometimes unhealthy and may even be illegal, and that can make them more vulnerable to being in jails, being in prisons and things of that nature,” explained Ajasha Long, PhD, a psychologist at MetroHealth and correctional psychologist for the Cuyahoga County Jail.

Dr. Long said loved ones and family members should be aware of a history of trauma in addition to behaviors such as aggression, impulsivity, bullying or violating the rights of others, inability to get along with other people, having difficulty within the family system, and skipping school.

If your loved one exhibits the at-risk behaviors noted above, it’s important to engage them with empathy and understanding, she said.

“Approach the conversation with an open heart and an open mind,” Dr. Long said. “Because a lot of times we don’t think enough about why somebody is choosing a particular action.”

Understanding the “why” behind a loved one’s concerning behaviors may help lead them to strategies for diverting the behavior into something more productive.

What Treatment Looks Like

There are a variety of treatment options for people whose behavior is concerning and may lead to criminal activity or those who have been incarcerated and are reintegrating into the community.

“It really just depends on the person and their own needs,” Dr. Long said. “There are some people that will be able to come and get stable and they may only need a brief amount of care, but there are other people who may present with chronic conditions and they might need a longer length of management of care.”

Treatment should always begin with the patient’s primary care provider. From there, treatment options at MetroHealth’s new Behavioral Health Hospital in Cleveland Heights may include inpatient care, a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). The new facility features 112 beds, modern patient environments and an outdoor recreational space to enrich treatment.

“Individuals who are coming out of the system will be able to get similar care, (like) group therapy (and) medication management,” Dr. Long said. “They’ll be able to get continuity of care in a place like this. That is the perfect streamline from one location to the next since they’re in the same system. Either way, we’ve got them covered.”

To learn more about behavioral health services for yourself or a loved one, call 216-778-3745 to speak with an intake specialist.


Ajasha Long, PhD