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Mental health

Collaboratively working to meet the mental health needs of youth without unnecessary juvenile justice system involvement

Recent research suggests that up to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system meet the criteria for at least one mental health disorder such as major depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety conditions. Many of these youth land in the juvenile justice system because their conditions are unrecognized, community services aren’t available, or systems aren’t coordinating effectively to put the right support in place. Unfortunately, young people with mental health problems often get worse, not better, when they are inappropriately treated or confined without support.

Models for Change is working to better respond to the needs of these youth through early identification of youth with mental health needs, diversion from the system where appropriate, and timely access to appropriate treatment. Pennsylvania and Washington have chosen mental health as one of the targeted areas of improvement. Through the Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network, the four core states and four additional partner states are committed to improving the response to youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system.

Through better inter-agency collaboration and more accessible mental health services, Models for Change is developing models that meet the needs of youth while avoiding unnecessary system involvement.