Active Projects

System-wide Adaptive Mental Health Measurement and Risk Reduction for Probationers in Cook County, Illinois

Principal Investigator: Matt Epperson, PhD, MSW – Smart Decarceration Project, University of Chicago

Funder: Arnold Ventures

Study Period: 2019-2023


Early and efficient identification of serious mental illnesses (SMI) can help probation systems respond more efficiently to probationers’ mental health needs. However, evidence on well-established models for efficiently identifying people with SMI within probation systems remains limited. This project proposes the system-wide implementation of a novel and evidence-based mental health screening tool, Computer Adaptive Testing-Mental Health (CATMH™), in the Cook County, Illinois Adult Probation Department. The CATMH™ was developed by co-investigator Robert Gibbons and is a cloud-based mental health and substance abuse severity assessment tool that leverages a large bank of test items and administers a small and optimal subset of questions for each individual, targeted to their level of severity. Within the Adult Probation Department, the CATMH™ will be considered in conjunction with criminogenic risk scores to examine how mental illness and criminogenic risk together affect probation and recidivism outcomes. Additionally, Cook County, Illinois Adult Probation Department will work with the Cook County Health Department to provide care coordination for people who screen positive for opiate abuse disorders. This study represents the first application of CAT assessment methods within a probation setting and sets the stage for future studies on interventions to address SMI needs and criminogenic risk within probation population.

News and Publications

Improving the Evaluation of Adult Mental Disorders in the Criminal Justice System with Computerized Adaptive Testing (Psychiatric Services Journal)

How an Online Test Might Help Identify Mental Illness (UChicago News)