Critical Issues - Program / Policy Issues
From: Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1992
Boundary Spanners: A Key Component for the Effective Interactions of the Justice and Mental Health Systems
Henry J. Steadman
Rarely are issues at the interface of the justice and mental health systems framed in system terms. Just how useful this perspective can be is demonstrated by the concept of boundary spanners. This term has been in the organizational literature for 20 years to define positions that link two or more systems whose goals and expectations are at least partially conflicting. Boundary spanning positions are illustrated here by examples from a jail diversion program in Multnomah County Jail (Portland, Oregon), a community forensic program in Palm Beach County (Florida), and the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board which monitors persons acquitted by reason of insanity. To date, almost no research on boundary spanning positions in criminal justice-mental health system interactions has been conducted. This article concludes that a vigorous pursuit of such an agenda should be initiated because this concept, as part of a systems approach to justice-mental health problems, is highly promising.