Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mental Health Court

With the new year, comes new opportunities to help kids. In the Cleveland, Ohio area, there is going to be a new program starting in the juvenile justice system. It is called Mental Health Court and the goal here is to focus on kids getting help instead of primarily focusing on their crime. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

In this way, kids with mental illness can be kept from getting a criminal record - if they chose to get help. It has been well documented in the past that "dual diagnosis" or the diagnoses of substance abuse and mental illness is common. In a study done in preparation for this program, they found the following in juvenile crime offenders:
26 percent of males and 52 percent of females screened had a severe mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder or depression.

63 percent of the kids had had both a mental health and a substance abuse problem diagnosed.
The pilot program is voluntary and will be starting out with 12 kids. A care team is created to see what services the child will need. The intensive program starts with weekly meetings. And, if they are compliant with the program - like taking their medications and attending school - the frequency of the meetings will taper off.

I would imagine that a program like this is not unique. But, I'm all for trying to find other ways to keep kids out of the criminal justice system - particularly those with mental illness. I live in a part of the state where there is very little funding for mental illness health care. When this happens, as this article describes, the only other alternative people have is calling the police for immediate action when the mental illness worsens. Hopefully, programs like this will show positive results.

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