Professional News
How to Improve MH of Youth
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 2 page 6-6

The Coalition on Juvenile Justice’s report on improving the mental health care of incarcerated juveniles, which is addressed to the President, Congress, mental health and corrections professionals, and the American public, is also a call to action (see story above). The following are some of the suggestions for improving mental health services for children involved in the juvenile justice system.

• Congress should authorize and appropriate $100 million to assist states in moving juvenile justice and mental health services to community-based settings.

• The U.S. President should propose and support legislation that ensures mental health benefits for youth of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels.

• The federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention should emphasize helping State Advisory Groups to develop mental health plans that encourage a continuum of care for youth and set standards for the humane treatment of youth who are housed in juvenile justice facilities.

• Juvenile justice administrators should ensure that every young person entering a facility is screened and assessed for mental illness, should take steps to reduce chances that these youngsters will be victimized by other youth or staff, and make certain that facilities conform to suicide prevention standards.

• Juvenile justice administrators should look beyond the traditional punishment-oriented models and establish innovative programs that empower youth and help them to succeed when released into their communities.

• Psychiatrists and mental health professionals should assist facilities in the correct use and supervision of medications.

• Psychiatrists and mental health professionals should acknowledge that minority, female, and gay youth may not benefit from current treatment models. These professionals should advocate for more research and culturally relevant assessment and treatment.

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