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Suicide Prevention: Meeting the Challenges of Reentry
Dr. David Stephens advocated change at the National Commission on Correctional Heathcare annual conference

The annual meeting of the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, held July 22-23 in Chicago, featured a presentation by Dr. David Stephens, dean of the School of Professional Psychology. Stephens presented “Suicide Prevention: Meeting the Challenges of Reentry.”  

His discussion addressed suicide risk and prevention activities, and advocated for a change in suicide prevention practices within jails and prisons across the country. 

Among this population, the death rate is 3.5 times the rate of the general population during their first year of reentry. During the first week of reentry, the death rate is 17 times the rate of the general population. 

“There is a small amount of existing research related to suicide risk following an inmate’s release to the community,” says Stephens. “We do know that these individuals are returning to an environment where they haven’t been successful in the past – either academically, vocationally or relationally. Dramatic changes may have occurred in society and in the community, and they return with no time to adjust.” 

Stephens has identified a process to help inmates effectively reenter society. Called “ESIE” (pronounced “easy”), the process includes Education, Screenings, Intervention and Evaluation.

Stephens also advocates that reentry planning should occur sooner during the incarceration.

“Discharge planning needs to start upon admission,” says Stephens. “Reentry efforts should begin six months before a release date and focus on housing, jobs and treatment availability. These individuals are returning to society without money, work or housing. They often have no support from family or friends.” 

Stephens joined University of the Rockies as dean of its School of Professional Psychology in 2011. Previously, he served as the regional director of mental health for Correctional Healthcare Management. He also served as the chief of Behavioral Health Services for the Colorado Department of Corrections.  

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