Corresponding Author: Sara Namazi, PhD Department of Health Sciences Springfield College, Springfield MA firstname.lastname@example.org Coauthors: Stanquinto Sudduth, BS Chief Stewards AFSCME Local 391 Connecticut State Prison Employee Union Krystle Pierce, M.Ed Correctional Counselor Connecticut Department of Correction Sherine Bailey, LPN Chief Stewards AFSCME Local 391 Connecticut State Prison Employee Union Amanda Towers Chief Stewards AFSCME Local 391 Connecticut State Prison Employee Union Teresa Perez, MS Chief Stewards AFSCME Local 391 Connecticut State Prison Employee Union Timothy Kelsey, BS Chief Stewards AFSCME Local 391 Connecticut State Prison Employee Union Collin Provost, AS Union President AFSCME Local 391 Connecticut State Prison Employee Union Mathew Brennan, MPH Department of Medicine University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington CT Timothy Cocozza, BS Department of Medicine University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington CT Jaime Blackmon, PhD candidate Department of Psychological Sciences University of Connecticut, Storrs CT Alicia G. Dugan, PhD Department of Medicine University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington CT Martin Cherniack, MPH, MD Department of Medicine University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington CT
The purpose of this study was to identify mental health stressors for correctional staff using the Intervention Design and Analysis Scorecard (IDEAS) online toolkit – a Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW) Total Worker Health Intervention planning tool. Findings have implications for future dissemination of work to other Departments of Correction.
Work is a determinant of employee mental health and overall well-being. Certain employment conditions (e.g., working in a high-stress occupation), are associated with health inequities,1 as evidenced by employees working for Departments of Correction.2 Several CPH-NEW studies highlight high rates of mental health stressors among correctional employees,3,4,5 with overtime demands, high-demand/low-control conditions, on-the-job trauma exposure, and lack of coworker and supervisor social support identified as sources of stress. In addition, rates of depression among newly hired correctional staff were similar to rates observed among tenured staff.6 Focus groups conducted by CPH-NEW research staff with correctional employees showed that mental health was regarded as both a priority health and safety concern and an important topic for intervention development.7
A design team (DT) consisting of eight core union members partnered with CPH-NEW research staff to focus on identifying and addressing mental health stressors for correctional staff. The team was a diverse group of individuals with various background in trauma and mental health. The team?s union provided release time, space to meet weekly, and approval to participate in mental health trainings. The DT used the Intervention Design and Analysis Scorecard (IDEAS),8 a 7-step intervention planning tool developed by CPH-NEW, to identify and address root causes of health and safety concerns on the job. The tool allowed the DT to generate intervention ideas and then rank, select and evaluate interventions for implementation. In line with the principles of Total Worker Health?, the IDEAS tool allows DT members to examine factors both inside and outside of work that impact employee health and well-being.9 Meetings were led by trained a DT facilitator and co-facilitator. In addition, CPH-NEW research staff meet with the DT facilitator weekly to advise them through the process.
Using the 7-steps IDEAS tool, the DT first conducted a root-cause analysis to identify mental health stressors for correctional staff (STEP 1). The DT then voted on the top three stressors they wanted to focus on for intervention development: an unsatisfactory report-writing process following critical incidents at a facility; lack of peer mentoring and support on-the-job, and trauma exposure. In STEP 2 the DT designed interventions to address their top three mental health stressors. These were: a report writing refresher training/outline for staff to use when writing incident reports; a peer support training for staff, and a facility training officer program; and a training for staff?s family members to help them better understand and cope with the types of stressors and trauma their partner/spouse deals with on the job. For STEP 3 the DT developed key performance indicators (i.e., scope, benefits, resources, and barriers to their interventions) that were used in STEPs 4-5 to rank and select their interventions. Finally, for STEPS 6-7, the DT planned for intervention implementation and evaluation.
Using the IDEAS tool, the DT was able to tackle their priority health and safety concern in a systematic process. First, the DT identified agency-wide inconsistencies in report writing as a mental health stressor for staff. This was primarily attributed to lack of training on proper report writing methods and pressure from supervisory staff to finish the report immediately after an incident. The DT felt that staff could benefit from refresher trainings on report writing, handouts with common terminology, and a report-writing room that could also serve as a space for staff to decompress after an incident at their facility. The DT also recognized the importance of peer support on the job, and put together a peer support program for staff which they plan to weave into a Facility Training Officer Program. The purpose of this program is to help correctional staff feel supported on the job and better navigate the corrections work life. Finally, the DT is working on a training for family members to help them better navigate the corrections work life with their partner and/or spouse. With the appropriate resources and training, family members can play a vital role in protecting and promoting the health and well-being of their correctional partner/spouse.
Correctional employees are an overlooked working population with many mental health disparities.2 The IDEAS tool provided the DT with a systematic approach to identifying root-causes and intervention priorities that addressed mental health stressors for correctional staff. In addition, the IDEAS tool raised DT members? capacity to tackle a highly stigmatized and often overlooked topic within the corrections workforce. The DT is currently in the process of implementing their interventions at facilities in a Northeastern state.