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Screening and Assessment in Juvenile Justice Systems: Identifying Mental Health Needs and Risk of Reoffending

Published Jan 18, 2012, Gina M. Vincent, Ph.D. Associate Professor Co-Director, National Youth Screening & Assessment Project

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Each year, more than 2 million children, youth, and young adults formally come into contact with the juvenile justice system, while millions more are at risk of involvement with the system for myriad reasons (Puzzanchera, 2009; Puzzanchera & Kang, 2010). Of those children, youth, and young adults, a large number (65–70 percent) have at least one diagnosable mental health need, and 20–25 percent have serious emotional issues (Shufelt & Cocozza, 2006; Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Dulcan, & Mericle, 2002; Wasserman, McReynolds, Lucas, Fisher, & Santos, 2002). System of care communities focusing on meeting the mental health and related needs of this population through comprehensive community-based services and supports have the opportunity to not only develop an understanding around the unique challenges this population presents, but also to decide how best to overcome those challenges through planned and thoughtful programs, strong inter-agency collaboration, and sustained funding.

The Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health (TA Partnership) recognizes the many challenges system of care communities face in working to better meet the needs of all of the children, youth, and young adults they serve. In an effort to help these communities meet the unique needs of young people involved or at risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system, the TA Partnership is releasing a resource series focused on this population. The TA Partnership has contracted with the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) and other experts in the field to produce this resource series. Each brief examines a unique aspect of serving this population, from policy to practice, within system of care communities.

We hope that this resource series will support the planning and implementation of effective services, policies, and practices that improve outcomes for children, youth, and young adults involved or at risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system as well as their families.


Supported by

Models for Change was a juvenile justice systems reform initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.