Diversion Program Effective With Juvenile Offenders With Mental Health Disorders, Substance Abuse
An evaluation of Ohio's Behavioral Health/Juvenile Justice (BHJJ) initiative in 11 counties by social work researchers at Case Western Reserve University found the program benefits most young offenders diverted from detention centers to community-based agencies to treat mental health issues, drug problems or both.
BHJJ is a program started 15 years ago at the request of Ohio juvenile court judges with help from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
The program serves offenders ages 10 to18 with mental health issues and substantial behavioral, cognitive and emotional problems. Many also have abused drugs and alcohol, have a history of violent or criminal behavior and have had encounters with various county agencies before appearing in juvenile court.
Researchers at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences' Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education analyzed information from caregivers, social workers and 2,545 young offenders who enrolled in the program between 2006 and 2013. Most showed improvements in functioning and decreases in future delinquency and symptoms related to trauma.
Based on the results from diagnostic assessments performed at community behavioral health agencies, nearly 60% suffered from a mental health disorder, while 38% were diagnosed with both a mental health and substance abuse disorder.
For many, the encounter with the juvenile justice system was the first time they were screened for behavioral health problems, said Jeff M. Kretschmar, PhD, research assistant professor from the Begun Center.
Kretschmar is lead author of the online article, "Diverting Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Issues from Detention: Preliminary Findings From Ohio's Behavioral Health Juvenile Justice (BHJJ) Initiative," in Criminal Justice Policy Review.
Their conclusion: Juvenile offenders can benefit from diversion programs through community agencies with services for mental health problems and substance abuse that they may not have received in a detention center.
— Source: Case Western Reserve University