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Mental Illness Among Juvenile Offenders--Identification and Treatment

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 69 Issue: 5 Dated: October 2007 Pages: 60,61,63
Leslee Hunsicker
Date Published
October 2007
3 pages
After documenting the prevalence of mental illness among juvenile offenders, this article outlines strategies for addressing this situation and describes several programs across the country at local and State levels that have implemented these strategies.
Research indicates that up to 70 percent of the estimated daily average of more than 90,000 adjudicated youth processed by local and State adult and juvenile justice placements or facilities have a mental disorder, such as conduct disorder, anxiety, and depression. Further, researchers have identified several strategies that can assist juveniles with mental disorders in increasing their chances of successful reintegration into the community and reduce their risk of reoffending. These strategies include early identification, early intervention, and individualized treatment. According to the American Correctional Association's standards for juvenile detention facilities, screening for the early identification of mental illness should include assessment for current risk or history of suicide and self-harm, mental health problems, substance abuse, medications, aggressive or violent behavior, psychiatric hospitalization or treatment, and current mental status. Youths identified with mental disorders should be referred for appropriate followup evaluation and individualized treatment planning by a qualified professional. Intervention and treatment plans must be culturally sensitive, age and developmentally appropriate, and gender-specific. They must also target the individual needs of each youth based on diagnosis and family dynamics. Planning should address continued treatment and support after reentry into the community. Several juvenile programs across the country have been developed to include assessment, early intervention, integrated treatment, and followup for mental health disorders and co-occurring substance abuse. These include the Illinois Mental Health Juvenile Justice Initiative; the Crossroads program in Summit County, OH; and the Family Integrated Transitions program in Washington State. 6 notes and 2 resource listings


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