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Behavioral Health Problems, Treatment, and Outcomes in Serious Youthful Offenders

NCJ Number
Carol A. Schubert, M.P.H.; Edward P. Mulvey, Ph.D.
Date Published
June 2014
16 pages
This bulletin presents the results from the portion of the Pathways to Desistance study that examined behavioral health problems, treatment, and outcomes in serious youthful offenders.
Selected findings from the study include the following: adolescent offenders with behavioral health problems, excluding substance abuse were at no greater risk of re-arrest or engaging in antisocial activities than young offenders without these problems; study participants with substance use disorders had more negative outcomes and fewer positive outcomes; a substantial percentage of youth with diagnosable mental health and substance use problems did not receive services in residential settings, while even fewer reported receiving community-based services; and more frequent aftercare services significantly reduced the odds of an arrest or return to an institution during the 6-month aftercare period with each added month of services reducing the odds for these outcomes by 12 percent. The Pathways to Desistance study is a multidisciplinary, multisite longitudinal study investigating how serious juvenile offenders make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The study follows 1,354 youth from 2 major metropolitan areas for 7 years following their court involvement. This bulletin first presents background information on the prevalence of behavioral health problems among serious juvenile offenders, and the benefits of providing mental health treatment for them. This is followed by a discussion of how the Pathways to Desistance study assesses behavioral health problems and criminogenic risk among this group of juveniles, and the negative and positive outcomes for these youth, such as re-arrest and participation in antisocial activity. The findings from the study indicate the need for improving serious juvenile offenders' access to mental health treatment and services. Implications for juvenile justice policy and practice are discussed. Figure, endnotes, and references