School-Focused Diversion Project for Youth with Mental Health Needs

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:

  • Establishing a collaborative relationship between school personnel, law enforcement, families and youth mental health providers
  • Effectively identifying and linking youth and families to appropriate support and mental health services in the community
  • Training school personnel and/or school resource officers to identify acting out and truant behavior that might be a result of mental health issues
  • Engaging families and reducing the likelihood of subsequent crises or truancy
  • Providing short-term follow-up to support engagement in treatment and reduction of future crises or truant behavior
  • Reducing the number of arrests and referrals to juvenile court due to acting out behavior or truancy

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

Mental Health Training and Education Project

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.

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615 Second Ave., Suite 275
Seattle, WA 98104