Correctional mental health expert co-edits correctional psychiatry textbook

January 13, 2015

A UMass Medical School expert on mental health for incarcerated populations has co-edited a soon-to-be-released textbook on correctional psychiatry to help improve the quality of care provided to inmates.

The 72-chapter Oxford Textbook of Correctional Psychiatry will be the first comprehensive resource on criminal justice mental health issues, said co-editor Kenneth L. Appelbaum, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and director of correctional mental health policy and research at the Center for Health Policy and Research, a unit within UMass Medical School's Commonwealth Medicine division. The textbook is available for pre-order and will be released in print March 26.

The book is a thorough overview of the field of correctional psychiatry that encompasses 14 broad content areas and includes a resource guide in correctional mental health care.

“It is a resource we hope will enhance the quality of care inmates with mental illness will receive,” Appelbaum said.

The Oxford University Press contacted Appelbaum in January 2013 and asked for his expertise in publishing a textbook on correctional psychiatry. The textbook was edited by Appelbaum, Robert L. Trestman, PhD, MD, professor of medicine, psychiatry and nursing at UConn Health Care, and Jeffrey L. Metzner, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.  Appelbaum, Trestman, and Metzner brainstormed topics for the textbook, wrote many of the chapters, and recruited top professionals, both nationally and internationally, who were most qualified to write about the remaining subjects.

 A unique skill set is needed to practice correctional psychiatry, Appelbaum said. During the past 10 to 20 years, medical organizations have increasingly recognized the importance of study in the area of correctional mental health care. UMass Medical School has been in the forefront of increasing that recognition through The Health and Criminal Justice Program. The program manages contracts that provide health services to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ federal medical centers in Devens, Massachusetts, and Butner, North Carolina, as well as its federal correctional institutions in Ray Brook, New York, and Berlin, New Hampshire. It also runs the annual Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health. The next conference is March 19 in Boston.

“The textbook, I believe, will be one step in furthering recognition by demonstrating the knowledge base people who work in this area need to master,” Appelbaum said.

Topics in the textbook include mental disorders and treatment in a correctional setting, ethics, human rights, and organization and funding of systems. Sections focus on a range of needs, including self-injury, suicide, and research, and such populations as seniors and teens as well as gay, bisexual, transgender, and lesbian individuals. The textbook is targeted to health professionals such as psychiatrists, physicians, nurses, and therapists, in addition to correctional administrators and criminal justice policy makers.

The textbook aims to demonstrate the uniqueness of this area of psychiatric practice, and improve health and safety in the correctional setting and community. If the mental health needs of inmates are not met while they’re incarcerated, there will be consequences when they return to the community, Appelbaum said.

“The textbook will serve as a blueprint for people trying to design and fund mental health services in a correctional setting,” Appelbaum said.