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Keith Snyder Honored for Mental Health Reform Efforts

Dec 20, 2009, Marie Yeager, Juvenile Court Judges' Commission Newsletter

Keith Snyder, Deputy Director of the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, was honored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a Champion for Change in juvenile justice reform for his work with Pennsylvania’s Models for Change Initiative. He was recognized at the Fourth Annual
Models for Change national conference in Washington, D.C. on December 7, 2009 for his work to improve the lives of courtinvolved kids, their families, and communities. Models for Change is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s $140 million national initiative to reform juvenile justice across the country.

Simply calling Keith Snyder a “team leader” is a vast understatement. He has repeatedly taken on difficult assignments that require bringing disparate groups together to identify common goals and find common solutions. That is the kind of job that requires a team leader of epic proportions. He has been especially skilled in the area of improving the mental health and juvenile justice systems’ response to youth with mental health needs.

Under Mr. Snyder’s leadership, Pennsylvania’s Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Work Group has made major strides in improving the coordination between the juvenile justice and mental health systems. Mr. Snyder used his leadership skills and knowledge of Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system to organize and mobilize critical stakeholders, including judges, probation, and advocates in supporting the state’s Models for Change efforts.

“I know there are many children who come into the juvenile justice system with mental health problems, and there are many families who are very frustrated because they can’t get the services they need,” says Snyder. “It’s important that Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system has the ability to identify and provide evidence-based treatment to those children who need help. The support provided to us through Models for Change has been a tremendous help in speeding up the reform process.”

“Keith’s formidable leadership has helped Pennsylvania institute reforms that will impact the lives of youth and their families for years to come,” said Lourdes Rosado, Associate Director of Juvenile Law Center. “He tackled thorny policy issues by galvanizing a team effort from all the key players,
helping them find their common goals.”

Mr. Snyder’s leadership was particularly important in the State Work Group’s effort to create legislation that would increase access to mental health services by protecting youth from self incrimination during screening, assessment, and evaluation. He was instrumental in introducing the proposed legislation to a wide array of stakeholders and in shepherding the bill through the legislative process. Signed into law by Governor Rendell in December 2008, Act 109 allows county probation departments to screen youth for mental health issues early in their involvement with the juvenile justice system, while at the same time protecting their due process rights. The need for this type of legislation to protect the legal rights of youth in the justice system was identified in the
Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Policy Statement.

The importance of Mr. Snyder’s leadership in the creation and implementation of this policy statement cannot be understated. The policy statement has provided a roadmap for reform in Pennsylvania by giving state and local policy makers, practitioners, and advocates a crystal clear understanding of the state’s stance with respect to mental health and juvenile justice.

“The Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Policy Statement has given localities a framework against which to compare their system and identify priorities for improvement,” continues Rosado. “The principles
laid out in the policy statement come straight from Models for Change core values. There is perfect

Mr. Snyder also helped create momentum for the creation of an evidence-based practice center.
The goal of the center is to expand the state’s reliance on evidence-based programs and provide evaluation assistance to other communities with promising program models. Clearly, the growth of evidencebased practices across Pennsylvania will result in positive youth outcomes, including improved family and youth functioning, decreased recidivism, and reduced mental health symptoms.
Mr. Snyder‘s leadership role with Models for Change has grown to become a wise and ardent champion of these efforts in Pennsylvania, and across the country.

He plays an important role in sharing the lessons and advancements from Pennsylvania’s Models for
Change initiative; he has presented on PA’s joint policy statement, the Evidence-based Prevention
and Intervention Support Center, and other juvenile justice reform work at national and state conferences, including the National GAINS Center’s 2008 conference.

“It has been my honor to work with the judges, lawyers, juvenile probation officers and many other
professionals in Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system who share the same commitment to this work
and who are equally deserving of this recognition,” added Snyder.

About Models for Change
The Models for Change initiative is an effort to create successful and replicable models of juvenile
justice system reform through targeted investments in key states. With long-term funding and support
from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change seeks to accelerate
progress toward a more rational, fair, effective, and developmentally appropriate juvenile justice system.

Sixteen states are now involved - four working on a range of state and local reforms, and 12 as part of
three action networks focusing on disproportionate minority contact, mental health, and now, juvenile
indigent defense. Pennsylvania was the first state chosen to participate in the initiative due to the
state’s existing, progressive reform efforts and well-established working partnerships. Models for
Change efforts in Pennsylvania are coordinated by the Juvenile Law Center, a Philadelphia-based
public interest law firm, that has been advocating for children in jeopardy since 1975.
For more information about Models for Change and Pennsylvania’s efforts, visit

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Reform areas: Mental health

States: Pennsylvania

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.