Ripe for Juvenile Justice Reform in Arkansas

The number of delinquent youth remanded to the Arkansas Division of Youth Services during the fiscal year that ended in July was the lowest in at least two decades, according to figures recently released by the DYS.

runaway kid

Runaway Youth Helped Using 10-Question Tool

Experts estimate about 2 million kids run away from home each year putting them at greater risk of physical or sexual abuse, homelessness, drug addiction and physical and mental health problems. Many are in need of medical care or other services. To ensure runaways get the help they need, police in St. Paul, Minn. who encounter runaways are using a short, 10-question screening tool to assess the runaway’s safety and whether they have been victimized while they’ve been away from home. Medical professionals and researchers in Minnesota developed the 10-Question Tool with assistance from local police.

Helping teens with mental illness

A growing number of states are looking for ways to assess and treat the mental health problems of children in the juvenile justice system.  The newest report comes from the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice at the Berkeley School of Law in California.  An estimated 40 to 70 percent of teens in California’s juvenile justice system have mental health disorders and the numbers are rising.  Researchers recommend some practical strategies:

Better definitions of mental health problems linking diagnosis with treatment options across the system
Proven screening and assessment tools
Outcome-based treatment programs

Screening Teens in Custody for Mental Illness May Improve Outcomes

A four-year study of the juvenile justice system in California unveils alarming mental health problems:

An estimated 50% of teens arrested in California have a suspected mental illness. 75% have a substance abuse problem

The Healthy Returns Initiative is searching for ways to improve treatment options and outcomes for young offenders.  The study reports on conditions in California’s Juvenile Justice System which sound a lot like conditions in Georgia:  State and local budget cuts, insufficient staff to handle kids with mental health problems, shortage of placement options for children with severe mental illness and substance abuse. The Initiative worked with 5 counties, both urban and rural, to identify teens with problems. They found the key is routine, standardized mental health screening at the earliest point of contact with the system.  They conclude ignoring mental health issues leads to longer and more costly stays in detention. Read more in the Sacramento Bee