Health Services

# of SFI Designated Incarcerated Individuals

42Jun 2022

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Story Behind the Curve

Serious Functional Impairment (SFI) is defined as: a) A substantial disorder of thought, mood, perception, orientation, or memory, any of as diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional, which grossly substantially impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, and which substantially impairs the ability to function within the correctional setting or b) a developmental disability, traumatic brain injury or other organic brain disorder, or various forms of dementia or other neurological disorder as diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional, which substantially impairs the ability to function in the correctional setting.

Incarcerated individuals are designated as SFI through two distinct processes: 

  1. Designation by a qualified mental health professional as a result of a clinical and functional assessment; or
  2. Designation as a result of an administrative process which confirms the offender was receiving developmental services (community rehabilitation and treatment, developmental disability, traumatic brain injury, and/or cognitive-functional composite) upon entering DOC custody through verifying/validating the individual's pre-existing and active community-based waiver(s).

The DOC identifies these vulnerable individuals either at booking by verifying that the individual has a waiver (#2 above) or by clinical designation when a qualified mental health provider determines they meet the statutory criteria (#1 above).

Similar to prior fiscal years, incarcerated individuals with designated SFIs constituted only 4% of the average monthly incarcerated population in FY22. There was an average of 48 monthly incarcerated individuals with an SFI-designation in FY22 (Jul 2021-Jun 2022). The number of incarcerated individuals with SFI designations remained consistent in FY22 with a low of 42 and a high of 52. There was a total of 76 unique incarcerated individuals with an SFI-Designation for FY22; of those, 50% were designated upon entering DOC custody (process #2 above) and 50% were designated from community-based waiver (process #1 above). 


The Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Department of Mental Health (DMH) recognize a common interest in the provision of mental health services to incarcerated individuals as well as the placement of incarcerated individuals who meet clinical criteria into inpatient hospitalization. The DOC often consults with DMH regarding incarcerated individuals in DOC custody, most of whom have been designated SFI as per Act 78. This partnership has been further codified through an interagency partnership between the DOC and DMH which outlines the specific ways that the departments can work together to meet these common goals. 

The DOC also partners with the Department of Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) and the DMH before an incarcerated individual's reentry into the community to:

  1. Reconnect those who were designated SFI as the result of receiving developmental services in the community; or 
  2. Initiate connections to developmental services upon release from incarceration for those who were designated SFI as the result of a clinical and functional assessment while in custody.

The DOC works in collaboration with the Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA), as DVHA (and their IT contractors) provide us the knowledge to assess if the incarcerated individual has active community-based waivers to be designated SFI within the facility. 

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