Work Begins on Improving Links Between the Justice System and Service Providers

EWING, NJ – On June 14 and 15, 2023, representatives from behavioral health and substance use treatment providers, social service agencies, and corrections and law enforcement systems in Mercer County and the City of Trenton began developing a plan to improve services for individuals with mental health issues and substance use disorders who encounter the local justice system.

During a two-day strategic planning session facilitated by SAMHSA’s GAINS Center, participants tracked what happens to an individual from arrest to incarceration and the overall reentry process. They also reviewed the Mercer County services to individuals upon release and access to services and social supports.

“This workshop is a strategic planning session intended to foster systemic change and provide each participating community with the tools necessary to move forward to enhance services for adults with mental illness and substance use disorders in contact with the justice system,” said Dr. Henry J. Steadman of SAMHSA’s GAINS Center.

“The SAMHSA Sequential Intercept workshop was our first step as a community towards creating of full map of our systems and services for coordinated reentry. Each ‘intercept’ represents a process in the overall system that is evaluated by cross-sector stakeholders including law enforcement, corrections, persons with lived experience, mental health and substance use treatment providers to improve outcomes,” said Associate Executive Director Susan Loughery. “We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this collaboration for improving services for our justice-involved neighbors.”

Woman writing at a large easel with a pink pen.

Facilitator Kathleen Kemp said “This group has been very forthcoming and transparent about its accomplishments and also its areas of need. They have identified priorities and outlined actionable steps that we hope will create change within the community.”

What Happens Next

The group will be meeting again on July 14, 2023, to begin implementing plans for improvement. For more information, contact Milly Diaz at

Organizations who participated in the mapping exercise included: Capital Health, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, Princeton Police Department, Helping Arms, Inc., The Trenton Health Team, IXP Corporation, Mercer County Correction Center, City of Trenton Coordinated Entry Assessment System Center, NAMI Mercer, the NJ Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Community Health Law Project, Mercer County Department of Human Services and Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton.

The Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) Mapping is a program designed by the GAINS Center to help communities identify gaps in services and opportunities to improve service coordination and communication between the criminal justice and behavioral health systems.

A visual mapping tapped to the wall showing the different intercepts outlined in the SIMS process.