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Risk Assessment and Behavioral Health Screening Project

NCJ Number
Gina M. Vincent; Rachael Perrault
Date Published
September 2018
2 pages
This brief presents the methodology and findings of the Risk Assessment and Behavioral Health Screening Project, which examined whether comprehensive implementation of a risk-needs assessment (SAVRY) in juvenile probation offices - coupled with a behavioral health screening protocol [the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument-Version 2 (MAYSI-2) for mental health and CRAFFT for substance use] - would improve case management of juvenile probationers.
Overall, the following factors were associated with more positive findings: 1) the risk-needs assessment is paired with training and policies consistent with risk-need-responsivity; 2) the assessment is conducted pre-disposition; 3) there is strong supervisory oversight and judicial oversight; and 4) there is an array of service options that address essential risk factors. The study found that implementing the SAVRY led to higher rates of youth being managed informally (e.g., unsupervised probation) rather than having formal juvenile records in two sites. Recidivism rates were significantly reduced in two sites and did not increase in any site. The findings on links between mental health and substances use screening, services, and outcomes were mixed. All but one probation office did not apparently match youths' dynamic risk factors to services that addressed these needs. Similarly, youth with potential mental health issues were no more likely to receive mental health-related services than their peers. Instead, probation offices tended to rely on mental health services as the primary treatment option; the only exception was the office with the most diverse service resources. Whether youth received mental health services did not apparently influence whether youth recidivated. There was some evidence that substance-use treatment reduced recidivism, but only for youth whose screening indicated they had substance-use problems. The research design and study limitations are described. Resource listings