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Race and Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Need and Services Received in Justice-Involved Youth

NCJ Number
Children and Youth Services Review Volume: 90 Dated: July 2018 Pages: 54-65
Leanne L. Heaton
Date Published
July 2018
12 pages

This study examined differences in mental health need and in services received by seven racial and ethnic groups of justice-involved youth.


Data were obtained from a nationally representative sample of 7,073 youth in residential placement across 36 states and five program types. Descriptive analyses and regression modeling techniques were used to examine the relationship between race/ethnicity, mental health need, and mental health services received. Results show that almost 10 percent of youth self-identified exclusively as American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, or multiracial. In almost all instances, the needs of one or more of these non-dominant groups were significantly higher than non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans, and/or Hispanics. Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander youth had the highest rate of suicide ideations and the second highest rate of suicide attempts, but approximately 17 percent of these youth were in a program that did not screen for suicide risk. Moreover, about half of all Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander youth were in placements that used untrained and/or no staff to evaluate youth for suicide risk. Multiracial youth were more likely to receive any counseling compared to Hispanic youth, but they received significantly less frequent counseling than African Americans and Hispanics. This study validates the need for samples that include sufficient numbers of non-dominant racial/ethnic groups, because mental health problems appear to be elevated in these subpopulations. (publisher abstract modified)