White Paper: Need to Reform Mental Health Treatment for Incarcerated Youth

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Up to 70% of youth involved with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder

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Up to 70% of youth involved with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disordercom

CHICAGO — National mental health organizations and experts are calling for reforming mental health services for incarcerated youth after recent reports revealed startlingly high numbers of mental health disorder in the population.

Up to 70 percent of youths who come in contact with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder, according to a Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change white paper published Thursday. On average, up to 600,000 youths are in detention centers and 70,000 youths are in correctional facilities every day. Many of those youths are in detention for committing minor, non-violent offenses, according to the white paper.

But once inside detention and facilities, youth do not receive proper treatment for mental health disorders. To address this, the white paper reports the MacArthur Foundation created reform models for the juvenile justice system, implemented in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana, Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio and Texas, that successfully “held young people accountable for their actions, provided for their rehabilitation, protected them from harm, increased their life chances and managed the risk they posed to themselves and to others.”

The reforms put forward by the MacArthur Foundation were aimed at community-based treatment for youth that circumvented the juvenile justice system. The MacArthur Foundation also created the  Collaborate for Change with the goal of implementing these reforms on a nationwide scale.

As a starting point for change, the white paper offers up these three points.

-There are large numbers of youth with mental health needs involved with the juvenile justice system.

-Many of these youth would be better served in community-settings with access to effective evidence-based treatments.

-Some of these youth will not be appropriate for diversion to the community but still deserve access to effective treatment while they are involved with the juvenile justice system.

To view the full report ‘Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System’ , click here.

This story produced by the Chicago Bureau

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