Delinquent behavior while at school and frequent unexcused absences from school (i.e., truancy) are common entry portals into the juvenile justice system. For many of these youth, an unidentified mental health issue may be an underlying reason for this behavior. The goal of this project is to shift the identification, care and treatment of youth with mental health issues from the juvenile justice system to the mental health system.
The project's objectives include:
Ultimately, we hope the project will result in improved early identification of youth with mental health issues and increased access to mental health services along with decreases in psychiatric symptoms among youth, school-related incidents and referrals to court
Agencies that help youth involved with the juvenile justice system do not routinely provide training to their staffs on basic mental health related issues, nor do most juvenile justice personnel have enough knowledge to understand how mental health needs can manifest in a variety of behaviors. This lack of mental health understanding can pose significant challenges for individuals working with these young people, may exacerbate the mental health problems of youth, and may lead to staff turnover, resulting in an ineffective workforce.
This project will develop and implement a youth mental health training and education package for personnel working within juvenile justice agencies and programs. The training will improve juvenile justice personnel's basic understanding of mental illness among youth, improve their skills and ability to interact with the youth they serve, and improve their functioning and the overall safety of their workplace, leading to greater employee retention and better outcomes for youth.