Funding Available to Reform Juvenile Justice Approach to Mental Health

The MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, are sponsoring a program to support states in developing more responsive policies affecting justice-involved youth with behavioral health disorders.

The Integrated Policy Academy Action Network Initiative is now accepting applications for its 2015-2016 cohort. The program is administered by The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates, Inc., and the Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc.

The initiative provides technical assistance to states that are seeking to develop or improve policies and practices that divert justice-involved youth with behavioral health disorders to appropriate community-based programs and services.

Up to five states will be chosen to participate in this effort based on their proven commitment to improve programs and policies for this population. The assistance program will specifically help states develop school-based and probation-intake diversion strategies to aid in the early identification of justice-involved youth with behavioral health disorders.

The initiative convenes multi-disciplinary teams of senior-level policymakers and stakeholders from the selected states to learn about effective interventions and the latest research in order to develop strategic plans for their states.

Examples of Past Winners:

New York State
The goal of New York State’s participation in this initiative was to develop and implement a successful program model for addressing the behavioral health needs of youth as part of a probation-intake diversion effort. Specific aims were to identify best practices to improve coordinated service provision for youth and to develop model protocols for identifying behavioral health needs of youth at probation-intake. Monroe County was selected as the pilot site for this initiative.

Through participation in this initiative, Minnesota sought to create a school-based diversion model to avoid arrest, expulsion, and out-of-school suspension whenever possible for students with co-occurring disorders. To accomplish this, the team developed a model where clearly defined roles and responsibilities facilitate timely and appropriate actions in dealing with student incidents, as well as create more uniformity in responses.

South Carolina

The goal for this initiative was to connect youth with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders to appropriate treatment services before problems result in a referral to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). South Carolina convened a core team of key policymakers from state and local juvenile justice, behavioral health, and family advocacy agencies and organizations. As initially envisioned, this project was to focus on the probation intake decision point. However, after participation in the Policy Academy meeting and a series of discussions with key local stakeholders, the diversion point was changed from probation intake to schools.

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Judith Fenlon is the Editor of the Money and Business Section of the Chronicle of Social Change.

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Judith Fenlon
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Money & Business Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change