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Issue Brief: Meeting Young Peoples Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
July 7, 2010

Court-involved youth who have significant behavioral health needs

Between 90 and 100 percent of the young people who enter the deepest end of the juvenile justice system have experienced complex trauma, including witnessing or experiencing violence at home, in the community or at school. Some of these young people require medication. For example, on June 12, 2010, of the 111 young people who were detained either at the Youth Services Center (YSC) or the New Beginnings Youth Development Center (NBYDC), about 26 percent were prescribed psychotropic medications.

In the past, the juvenile justice system was not prepared to help young people

Prior to 2005, young people who entered the juvenile justice system were inconsistently screened to see if they had behavioral health needs (or not at all). There were no real comprehensive assessments done to map out an approach to treatment, and it took too long to get young people into acute hospital beds if they had severe mental health issues. If a young person was at‐risk of self‐harm or suicide, they were sometimes not placed in the right rooms for their protection, and taken off protection without a process or plan.

Today, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) is focused on addressing young people’s behavioral health needs