"Tools to Live": Using Community-Engaged Scholarship to Assess the Role of a Canadian Non-Profit Organization in Serving Persons with Mental Health Issues and Concurrent Disorders
Ample empirical evidence highlights the significant prevalence of persons with mental health issues and concurrent disorders involved in the criminal justice system. This population frequently uses services provided by community based non-profit organizations for aid and support. Yet, there is a dearth of research that addresses the prevalence of mental health issues and concurrent disorders amongst those served by such organizations, and the barriers to community reintegration that they face. Focusing on the prevalence of mental health issues and concurrent disorders among individuals involved or at risk of involvement in the criminal justice system, the John Howard Society of Waterloo-Wellington and the University of Guelph embarked upon a mixed-methods community-engaged research partnership. Information for the clients in the ‘Community Aftercare’ program was collected in relation to mental health issues and concurrent disorders. Our data reveal the ‘typical’ profile of the clients accessing the Aftercare program, which includes a high prevalence of mental health issues and concurrent disorders. Further, interviews identified stigma, history of victimization, complex needs, criminal history, diminished welfare state, and a lack of social support/social capital as barriers faced by the Aftercare clients. The Aftercare program, however, acts as a form of social support and builds social capital for the clients. A lack of adequate funding to address the complex needs of the Aftercare clients was identified as a program limitation, and the findings revealed a need for additional funding.