Project Connect

Project Connect is a one-year staff development, wellness and recovery oriented, systems change and technical assistance program for counties and other local jurisdictions working with persons with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders on probation or in alternative to incarceration (ATI) programs. Project Connect includes practical, flexible, and customizable materials used to educate staff, identify local gaps and resources, and to achieve positive systems change. Project Connect is provided by the New York State Office of Mental Health, Division of Forensic Services, in collaboration with the New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives and the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

Program Goal

The goal of Project Connect is to decrease recidivism and to promote the wellness and recovery of people with co-occurring disorders in the justice system, in order to enhance the safety of all citizens.

Program Objectives

The objectives of Project Connect are to:

  • increase staff understanding of probation/ATl, mental illness and recovery through cross-systems training and education
  • develop a cross-systems strategic action plan to identify service gaps and resources
  • promote sustainable partnerships and approaches through local implementation team development and technical assistance

Local Implementation Team

The Project Connect implementation team must include the following individuals:

  • Mental Health service system representative

  • Probation and/or Alternatives to Incarceration program representative

  • Substance Use service system representative

  • Dual Recovery Coordinator (if any)

  • Consumer of mental health services who have been involved in the justice system

  • Family Member of consumer(s) who have been involved in the justice system

  • Other Providers (e.g., entitlements, local Medicaid authority, homeless services, etc

Project Connect consists of three major components:

Staff Development:

Training for Probation and Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Staff:

  • Fundamentals of Mental Health & Mental Illness -an instructor's manual that provides materials necessary for instructor-led staff development and independent learning. Topics covered include: understanding serious mental illness; diagnosis; co-occurring disorders; medications; and evidence based practices to facilitate recovery.

  • Understanding and Responding to Persons with Serious Mental Illness and Co-occurring Substance Use Disorders - a guide for supervisors that provides information and instructional aids for assistance in the supervision of probation officers and AT1 staff. Topics covered include demographics; locus of care; challenges for probation officers and AT1 staff; identification; risk; and safety.

Training for Behavioral Health Staff

  • Understanding Probation: Bridging Probation and Mental Health Services - a training program designed to be presented by probation to community mental health providers. It offers an overview of probation in New York State with a focus on mental health. Topics covered include: the criminal justice system in New York State; probation supervision; and collaboration between probation/ATI and mental health programs.

Wellness & Recovery

  • Wellness & Recovery - a training for all staff on the core principles and practices that promote the recovery of people with psychiatric disabilities. Delivered by NYAPRS, this training encourages staff to incorporate recovery principles into their daily work activities.

  • NYAPRS Recovery Facilitation Consultants attend implementation team meetings and are available to each county to help promote recovery-oriented practices through technical assistance.

Systems Change

The following meetings aid Connect counties in identifying and pursuing systems change:

  • Connect Forum: Two-day facilitated strategic planning meeting to review program components and to develop the local action plan with expert technical assistance.

  • County Level Connect Meetings: A county interagency implementation team meets regularly to implement training and to address issues identified at the Connect Forum and beyond. A Facilitating Planning & Service Delivery Module is available to aid in this function.

  • Ask the Expert Net/TeleConferences: Connect provides up to three free Net/TeleConferences on topics of interest to participating counties.

  • Targeted Technical Assistance: County-specific assistance is provided upon request to support the local action plan in each county.