Affordable Care Act Expands Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits for 62 Million Americans
According to an issue brief released Feb. 20 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Affordable Care Act will extend mental health and substance use disorder benefits to 32 million and federal parity protections to an additional 30 million Americans.
The HHS report explains that to do so, the Affordable Care Act will build upon the existing federal parity law, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Applying to group health plans and insurers, this law requires that when provided, coverage for mental health and substance use conditions be comparable to that for medical and surgical care. However, gaps in coverage currently leave millions either without such benefits or without parity protections.
In surveying coverage before the Affordable Care Act, the report finds:
- One-third of those currently covered in the individual market have no coverage for substance use disorder services, and nearly 20% have no coverage for mental health services. Even when individual market plans provide these benefits, the federal parity law does not apply to these plans.
- More common than in the individual market, about 95% of those with small group market coverage have substance abuse and mental health benefits. Again, the federal parity law does not apply.
- 47.5 million Americans lack health insurance coverage altogether, and 25% of uninsured adults have a mental health condition or substance use disorder or both.
With Synthetic Pot, You Don't Know Where it's Been; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Legislator Wants to Change the Culture of Juvenile Justice System (NebraskaRadioNetwork.com)
A leading state legislator says the state juvenile justice system must move from a culture of incarceration to a culture of treatment. Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, says his committee will spend a couple of days hearing legislation that aims at nothing short of the transformation of how Nebraska deals with juvenile offenders.
- In Kentucky, Juvenile Offenders’ Names Could be Shared After Adjudication (JJIE.org)
On Monday, members of the Kentucky House passed a bill that would allow victims in juvenile court trials to discuss a case once a verdict is rendered, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. House Bill 115 swept through the House with unanimous approval earlier this week, garnering a 93-0 vote in Kentucky’s lower legislative body.
- [VIDEO] Nation Honors Center on Front Lines of Juvenile Justice (Northwestern.edu)
The Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC) at the Northwestern University School of Law has received a $750,000 award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in recognition of the Center's exemplary advocacy for children caught up in the harsh realities of Illinois’ juvenile and criminal justice systems.
- Inquirer Editorial: Juvenile Justice that Leans Toward Mercy (Philly.com)
The Luzerne County cash-for-kids scandal revealed the potential for tragedy when locking up juvenile defendants becomes routine. Thousands of young people were harmed by the scheme hatched by two disgraced judges, who took millions of dollars in kickbacks to place young offenders in for-profit detention centers.
Helping Teens Connect to Brighter Days
Like they do in many Reclaiming Futures communities, juvenile probation officers in Ventura County, Calif., play a critical role in the success of teens caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
Ventura County Probation Agency Division Manger, Theresa Hart, spoke with us recently about the benefits of connecting teens to counseling services, employment and higher education.
While they need to be held accountable, young people also need to be encouraged and led toward healthy activities. Fortunately for the teens in Ventura County, there are options like sports, art and photography, that connect the community.
Probation officers in Ventura County Reclaiming Futures have many partners and access to special activities, like community gardens, where kids can grow the ingredients to make their own salsa, and music studios, where they write and record original music.
We applaud these caring adults, who are showing teens that they can choose a better future.
Explainer: By the Numbers, Connecticut’s Experience With Juvenile Justice Reforms
One of the greatest obstacles to reforming the juvenile justice system is the fear that “going soft” on juvenile crime will pose a threat to public safety, either by setting youthful marauders loose upon a defenseless public or by removing the supposed deterrent effect of harsh and mandatory punishments. A second obstacle is the belief that any alternative to the current system of punishment and confinement will cost more, a particularly unwelcome proposition at a time when many states and communities are experiencing severe budget shortfalls.
A new report from the Justice Policy Institute, a national nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., and funded by the Tow Foundation, provides evidence contradicting the assumptions behind both objections to reform. “Juvenile Justice Reform in Connecticut: How Collaboration and Commitment Have Improved Public Safety and Outcomes for Youth” details a series of reforms in the Connecticut juvenile justice system since the 1990s, and the positive changes observed in the state since those reforms were instituted.
In the report, author Richard Mendel states that the Connecticut juvenile justice system today is “far and away more successful, more humane, and more cost-effective than it was 10 or 20 years ago” and attributes these changes largely to the state’s willingness to re-invent its system, based on “the growing body of knowledge about youth development, adolescent brain research and delinquency.”
The most significant of these changes include ending the criminalization of status offenses (e.g., truancy, running away), ceasing to treat 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults, building a system of community alternatives to confinement and sharply reducing the number of juveniles sentenced to confinement. Connecticut also developed programs to address the specific needs of girls in confinement, to address racial disparities in the juvenile justice system, and to reduce school-based arrests and out-of-school detentions.
Risk Assessment in Juvenile Justice: A Guidebook for Implementation
The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s National Youth Screening & Assessment Project recently published “Risk Assessment in Juvenile Justice: A Guidebook for Implementation.” This guidebook looks at research evidence and provides a framework for selecting and implementing an evidence-based tool to help reduce risks associated with teens’ placement and supervision while involved with the juvenile justice system. Via the report:
The primary purpose of this Guide is to provide a structure for jurisdictions, juvenile probation or centralized statewide agencies striving to implement risk assessment or to improve their current risk assessment practices. Risk assessment in this Guide refers to the practice of using a structured tool that combines information about youth to classify them as being low, moderate or high risk for reoffending or continued delinquent activity, as well as identifying factors that might reduce that risk on an individual basis.
The purpose of such risk assessment tools is to help in making decisions about youths’ placement and supervision, and creating intervention plans that will reduce their level of risk.
"If Not Now, When?" Survey Finds Scant Police Training in Juvenile Justice
A recent survey of the state of training about juveniles in police academies reveals deficits in quantity and quality, with most state police academies devoting less than 1% of total curriculum time to teaching about juvenile justice. The nationwide survey conducted by Strategies for Youth (SFY) reports that the limited training that does exist emphasizes legal issues rather than skills and best practices for working with youth.
This is problematic, considering the growing body of research establishing the developmental and psychological differences between youth and adults. At the same time, police presence in the lives of youth has increased in recent years, with officers deployed in public schools and responding to disputes involving juveniles. A wealth of scientific information has informed best practice and effective strategies for interactions with youth, but goes neglected in police training at this juncture.
Highlights of the survey’s results include:
- Only 9 states provide new officers any training on adolescent mental health issues, and only 2 training on adolescent development and psychology.
- Only 8 states provide information on the federally required obligation to reduce disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in their juvenile justice curriculum.
- 5 states require no juvenile justice training in the academy at all.
- 40 states’ juvenile justice curricula focus primarily on the juvenile code and legal issues and provide no communication or psychological skills for officers working with youth.
Of the 2.1 million juvenile arrests each year, only 12% are for serious or violent felonies. According to SFY this number shows the consequences of this training gap, as lacking other strategies, police quickly resort to arrests in youth interactions. Beyond being costly, arrests negatively impact youth, their communities, and officers alike. Said SFY Executive Director Lisa Thurau in a press release,
“There’s a big disconnect in the American juvenile justice system. While reformers and system stakeholders are working to reduce reliance on the arrest, detention and incarceration of juveniles, police are being ignored as an integral part of these efforts. We’ve got to share this information with them and make them partners in reform.”
Florida’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Is Largest in the Nation; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Smart Justice Reforms are Gaining Popularity for Juveniles in Jacksonville (Jacksonville.com)
Growing frustration and dissatisfaction over how juvenile delinquents are treated in Jacksonville, Florida has inspired a new coalition of activist groups to press for reform.
- Study Recommends Extending Illinois Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to Include 17-year-olds Charged with Felony Offenses (ModelsforChange.net)
After examining the impact of a 2010 state law that places 17-year-olds in juvenile courts for misdemeanor charges but in adult criminal court for felony charges, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission has issued a report recommending an end to the practice in the interest of fairness and public safety.
- New National Standards For Legal Defense Could Help Juveniles (JJIE.org)
It happens too often in court systems around the country. A teenager is charged with a crime. His family can’t afford a lawyer, but the court won’t assign him one until he can prove a lack of funds.
- Florida’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Is Largest in the Nation (Colorlines.com)
It used to be that getting in a schoolyard fight meant a trip to the principal’s office—detention, maybe. But in Florida, more than any other state, that schoolyard fight can lead to the student’s arrest and even felony charges. Last year 12,000 students were arrested 13,870 times in Florida public schools, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Supporting Father Involvement in Santa Cruz
According to Papas, funded by the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention, it is estimated that one in three children in the United States lives without their biological father. Children who live in homes with absent biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems and to be victims of child abuse.
Reclaiming Futures Santa Cruz County is taking preventative action through Hands on Fatherhood, a program designed for fathers and father-figures to encourage each other and increase meaningful father-child relationships. In the video below, Community Fellow, Jaime Molina, describes the wonderful work they are doing to connect fathers and children.
Teen’s Criminal Career can Start by Age 5
By the time a juvenile is arrested, or referred to the juvenile court system, chances are he or she has already displayed a pattern of antisocial behavior.
Red flags are easy to recognize in the days following a tragic event like a mass shooting—but it’s important to identify those early warning signs before they turn into a pattern of criminal behavior.
In some extreme cases, children as young as 5 years old are committing crimes. So when that child becomes an adult, he or she may already have a lengthy criminal record.
“With onset in criminal careers, the first sign of that problem behavior is an indicator of how severe it will be,” DeLisi says. “If you can help them, you save a ton of money and you save a lot of problems. But it’s just the issue of correctly identifying them and that raises a bunch of ethical and other issues.”
The connection between the onset and the severity is similar to other ways children start to develop, either positively or negatively, at an early age.
“If you have someone who is 3, or even 2, and is already reading it would suggest that the person is highly intelligent,” DeLisi says. “The reason is because the emergence or the onset of the behavior is usually inversely related to what they will become. The earlier something appears the more special they are or extreme.”
Study Reveals Substance Abuse Among Teens with Mental Health Issues
A new study from the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute shows striking levels of substance use among teens seeking mental health care, with one in 10 mentally ill teens reporting frequent use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. This pattern of substance use becomes more common as teens age, and likely heightens risk of poor physical and mental health outcomes, the study reports.
In a University of Sydney news release, lead researcher Dr. Daniel Hermens said,
“Traditionally there have been mental health services, and substance abuse services, but both have been quite separate. Our study shows that we need to integrate mental health interventions with substance use interventions in order to help at-risk young people.
“There is a lot of evidence for the co-morbidity of mental health problems and substance misuse. More people have both mental health and substance use problems than either alone—in other words, it's the rule rather than the exception."
Published in BMJ Open, the study used self-reported data from more than 2,000 people aged 12-30 years seeking mental health care. Overall, substance use rates increased with age across groups, broken into age bands of 12-17, 18-19, and 20-30 year-olds.