The Sequential Intercept Model Advancing community-based solutions for justice-involved people with mental and substance use disorders

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History and Impact of the Sequential Intercept Model

The Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) was developed over several years in the early 2000s by Mark Munetz, MD and Patricia A. Griffin, PhD, along with Henry J. Steadman, PhD, of Policy Research Associates, Inc. The SIM was developed as a conceptual model to inform community-based responses to the involvement of people with mental and substance use disorders in the criminal justice system.

After years of refinement and testing, several versions of the model emerged. The “linear” depiction of the model found in this publication was first conceptualized by Dr. Steadman of PRA in 2004 through his leadership of a National Institute of Mental Health-funded Small Business Innovative Research grant awarded to PRA.(1) The linear SIM model was first published by PRA in 2005 through its contract to operate the GAINS Center on behalf of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).(2) The “filter” and “revolving door” versions of the model were formally introduced in a 2006 article in the peer-reviewed journal Psychiatric Services authored by Drs. Munetz and Griffin.(3) A full history of the development of the SIM can be found in the book The Sequential Intercept Model and Criminal Justice: Promoting Community Alternatives for Individuals with Serious Mental Illness.(4)

With funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, PRA developed the linear version of the SIM as an applied strategic planning tool to improve cross-system collaborations to reduce involvement in the justice system by people with mental and substance use disorders. Through this grant, PRA, working with Dr. Griffin and others, produced an interactive, facilitated workshop based on the linear version of the SIM to assist cities and counties in determining how people with mental and substance use disorders flow from the community into the criminal justice system and eventually return to the community.

During the mapping process, the community stakeholders are introduced to evidence-based practices and emerging best practices from around the country. The culmination of the mapping process is the creation of a local strategic plan based on the gaps, resources, and priorities identified by community stakeholders.

Since its development, the use of the SIM as a strategic planning tool has grown tremendously. In the 21st Century Cures Act, the 114th Congress of the United States of America identified the SIM, specifically the mapping workshop, as a means for promoting community-based strategies to reduce the justice system involvement of people with mental disorders.(5) SAMHSA has supported community-based strategies to improve public health and public safety outcomes for justice-involved people with mental and substance use disorders through SIM Mapping Workshop national solicitations and by providing SIM workshops as technical assistance to its criminal justice and behavioral health grant programs. In addition, the Bureau of Justice Assistance has supported the SIM Mapping Workshop by including it as a priority for the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grants.

With the advent of Intercept 0, the SIM continues to increase its utility as a strategic planning tool for communities who want to address the justice involvement of people with mental and substance use disorders.(6)

Best Practices at Each Intercept

Intercept 0

Mobile crisis outreach teams and co-responders. Behavioral health practitioners who can respond to people experiencing a behavioral health crisis or co-respond to a police encounter.

Emergency Department diversion. Emergency Department diversion can consist of a triage service, embedded mobile crisis, or a peer specialist who provides support to people in crisis.

Police-friendly crisis services. Police officers can bring people in crisis to locations other than jail or the Emergency Department, such as stabilization units, walk-in services, or respite. However, these crisis services must have police-friendly policies so that officers can return to their duties.

Intercept 1

Dispatcher training. Dispatchers can identify behavioral health crisis situations and pass that information along so that Crisis Intervention Team officers can respond to the call.

Specialized police responses. Police officers can learn how to interact with individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis and build partnerships between law enforcement and the community.

Intervening with super-utilizers and providing follow-up after the crisis. Police officers, crisis services, and hospitals can reduce super-utilizers of 911 and Emergency Department services through specialized responses. In addition, officers and behavioral health practitioners can promote treatment engagement by following up with individuals once a crisis has been resolved.

Intercept 2

Screening for mental and substance use disorders. Brief screens can be administered universally by non-clinical staff at jail booking, police holding cells, court lock ups, and prior to the first court appearance. Screens should be validated instruments rather than locally developed forms.

Data matching initiatives between the jail and community-based behavioral health providers. Data sharing between the jail and behavioral health care providers allows for providers to identify consumers who are incarcerated and for the jail to provide continuity of care to the extent possible.

Pretrial supervision and diversion services to reduce episodes of incarceration. Risk-based pre-trial services can reduce incarceration of defendants with low risk of criminal behavior or failure to appear in court. People with behavioral health needs placed in pretrial detention experience an increased likelihood of negative outcomes than when managed in the community.

Intercept 3

Treatment courts for high-risk/high-need individuals. Treatment courts or specialized dockets can be developed, examples of which include adult drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans treatment courts.

Jail-based programming and health care services. Jail health care providers are constitutionally required to provide behavioral health and medical services to detainees, including the routine delivery of psychotropic medications, counseling, mutual support groups, and medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders. Inmates may also have chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes) needing treatment.

Collaboration with the Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) specialist from the Veterans Health Administration. Jails and courts can improve continuity of care for incarcerated veterans through collaboration with their community’s VJO specialist. VJO specialists assist in the identification and service engagement of veterans incarcerated in local jails and served by the courts, such as veterans treatment courts.

Intercept 4

Transition planning by the jail or in-reach providers. Transition planning improves reentry outcomes by organizing services around an individual’s needs in advance of release. Transition planning may be conducted by jail or prison staff or by in-reach providers from the community.

Medication and prescription access upon release from jail or prison. People leaving correctional institutions routinely lack access to health coverage or do not have financial resources to pay for medications. Inmates should be provided with a minimum of 30 days medication at release and have prescriptions in hand.

Warm hand-offs from corrections to providers increases engagement in services. A common gap is for people to be released from jail or prison with only referrals to service providers. Many people never make it to their intake appointment. Case managers that pick an individual up and transport them directly to services or housing supports will increase positive outcomes.

Intercept 5

Specialized community supervision caseloads of people with mental disorders. Specialized caseloads where officers employ a problem-solving approach may achieve increased compliance for people with mental disorders in community supervision.

Medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders. Medication-assisted treatment approaches, from long-acting injectables to methadone maintenance, can reduce relapse episodes and overdoses among individuals returning from detention.

Access to recovery supports, benefits, housing, and competitive employment. Housing and employment are as important to justice-involved individuals as access to behavioral health services. Recovery supports, such as peer support and access to benefits, are also valuable services.

Best Practices Across the Intercepts

Sequential Intercept Model as a Strategic Planning Tool

The Sequential Intercept Model is most effective when used as a community strategic planning tool to assess available resources, determine gaps in services, and plan for community change. These activities are best accomplished by a team of stakeholders that cross over multiple systems, including mental health, substance use, law enforcement, pretrial services, courts, jails, community corrections, housing, health, social services, people with lived experiences, family members, and many others. Employed as a strategic planning tool, communities can use the Sequential Intercept Model to:

  1. Develop a comprehensive picture of how people with mental and substance use disorders flow through the criminal justice system along six distinct intercept points: (0) Community Services, (1) Law Enforcement, (2) Initial Detention and Initial Court Hearings, (3) Jails and Courts, (4) Reentry, and (5) Community Corrections
  2. Identify gaps, resources, and opportunities at each intercept for adults with mental and substance use disorders
  3. Develop priorities for action designed to improve system and service-level responses for adults with mental and substance use disorders

About Policy Research Associates

Policy Research Associates, Inc. was founded in 1987 with the stated mission of “creating positive social change for people who are disadvantaged through technical assistance, research and training.”

Beginning with one research project, we have grown in size and project diversity while maintaining our expertise in technical assistance, research, and behavioral health. PRA is composed of approximately 50 talented employees, dedicated to bettering the lives of underserved populations.

We are committed to giving back to our local community and have developed a number of long-standing charitable giving campaigns and volunteer projects. Whether it be serving breakfast at our local homeless shelter or competing in a company-wide fundraising challenge, each staff member plays a part in serving our neighbors in need.


  1. Steadman, H.J. (2007). NIMH SBIR Adult Cross-Training Curriculum (AXT) Project – Phase II Final Report. Delmar, NY: Policy Research Associates. (Technical report submitted to NIMH on 3/27/07.)
  2. National GAINS Center. (2005). Developing a comprehensive state plan for mental health and criminal justice collaboration. Delmar, NY: Author.
  3. Munetz, M.R., & Griffin, P.A. (2006). Use of the sequential intercept model as an approach to decriminalization of people with serious mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 57, 544-549. DOI: 10.1176/ps.2006.57.4.544
  4. Griffin, P.A., Heilbrun, K., Mulvey, E.P., DeMatteo, D., & Schubert, C.A. (Eds.). (2015). The sequential intercept model and criminal justice: Promoting community alternatives for individuals with serious mental illness. New York: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/med:psych/9780199826759.001.0001
  5. 21st Century Cures Act, Pub. L. 114-255, Title XIV, Subtitle B, Section 14021, codified as amended at 41 U.S.C. 3797aa, Title I, Section 2991
  6. Abreu, D., Parker, T.W., Noether, C.D., Steadman, H.J., & Case, B. (2017). Revising the paradigm for jail diversion for people with mental and substance use disorders: Intercept 0. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 35, 380-395. DOI: 10.1002/bsl.2300


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