Joliet, Ill. – University of St. Francis (USF) faculty members Laura N. Honegger, Ph.D., MSSW (assistant professor and department chair, Department of Social Work) and Stacy Dewald, Ph.D. (assistant professor, Department of Criminal and Social Justice) recently published an article in the Journal of Forensic Social Work on people in the criminal justice system with trauma histories. The article, Making a Case for Gender-Responsive, Trauma-Informed Mental Health Courts: An Exploration of Participant Trauma Histories, takes a closer look at the disproportionate number of people in the criminal justice system with trauma histories, in conjunction with the disproportionate number of people with mental illness who have experienced trauma, examining the trauma histories of mental health court (MHC) participants.
Through their study, Honegger and Dewald aimed to describe the lifetime prevalence of traumatic events and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis among a sample of 163 participants within a Northeastern U.S. MHC.
“The findings from our study underscore the importance of understanding the breadth and scope of trauma-informed, gender-responsive approaches within mental health courts. In response, Dr. Dewald and I are working on a research survey that will provide an update on the current status of mental health courts across the United States, with a subset of our survey questions pertaining to how individual courts address trauma among their participants,” said Honegger.
Honegger and Dewald’s study concludes that, “in addition to providing in-house services or linkages to counseling, case management, housing, and other ancillary services, MHC participants would likely benefit from embedding a trauma-informed approach, which would be well aligned with the principle of therapeutic jurisprudence.”
It adds that, “while the cost of adding gender-responsive, trauma-informed curriculum may be cost prohibitive for many MHC programs, we contend that all MHC programs should work towards the intentional adoption of a trauma-informed approach that includes free and accessible trauma screening tools, as well as modification of existing policies and procedures to reflect the values of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment.”
The full article can be accessed at https://journals.shareok.org/jofsw/article/view/109/94.
The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.
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