Who we are

About our center

The Center for Mental Health, Policy, and the Law (CMHPL) is devoted to interdisciplinary research, training, and practice in forensic mental health. The CMHPL’s work promotes the needs of justice-involved people and their families, in Washington and beyond.

Our Center is housed within the University of Washington (UW) Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the UW School of Medicine.

An urgent need for mental health services in forensic settings

Individuals with serious mental illness in Washington state are ten times more prevalent in a forensic or correctional setting than in a state hospital. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that more than half of individuals in prisons and jails are experiencing a mental health condition. This overrepresentation of people with serious mental illness in the criminal justice system is often compounded by racial and economic disparities. These figures underscore the reality that correctional facilities serve as the de facto mental health care system in many communities. Yet, they are rarely equipped to provide the treatment necessary for rehabilitation and recovery.

Creation of the CMHPL

The CMHPL was founded in response to a legislative mandate to investigate opportunities to maximize forensic mental health training in Washington state and to develop a forensic mental health center of excellence.