Guest Post from the Flawless Foundation: Knowing and Doing!
Last week at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, I attended the Criminalization of Mental Illness Symposium. National experts shared fourteen presentations in an effort to make sense of hundreds of statistics and research studies on such topics as recidivism, gun violence, juvenile justice, homicide, suicide, Aurora, Tucson, Newtown and VA Tech. Do you think this sounds overwhelming? Actually, it wasn’t.
Over and over, members of this Think Tank who are advising our nation’s leaders on public policy, mental health and criminal justice reform repeated, “We know what to do, we just need to do it.”
So what do we need to do? We need to take a stand for prevention, compassion and love. Doesn’t it make sense to advocate for education, preventative mental health and programming for youth instead of simply waiting until it is too late? Too often in our current system, we are sending those in need straight into the justice system, especially our children who often fall into the “school to prison pipeline.” We all know that the system is broken but the beauty is we can and are fixing it.
I am very fortunate to spend my days at the Flawless Foundation witnessing miracles over and over again. Our grantees and partners are visionary leaders who have created programs that are not just thinking about these issues but they are actively addressing them through relationship, promoting connections and healing on every level: body, mind and soul. We know what to do and we are doing it.
[VIDEO] The Ethics of Solitary Confinement
Al Jazeera English recently released an Inside Story 30-minute video examining the state of solitary confinement, including teens, in United States prisons. The discussion includes the following:
Amongst those in solitary confinement today are juveniles as young as age 16, with one study suggesting that in 2012, 14 percent of adolescents in the New York City prison system had been held in isolation at least once. So, why does the United States put more people into solitary confinement than any other country in the democratic world?
We've reported in the past about the particularly harsh negative affects that solitary confinement has on teens, and while this video offers a broader look at solitary confinement, its themes are still relevant to our work in the juvenile justice system. Watch the full program below:
Encouraging Trends in Children's Mental Health Services
Twenty years ago, only about 10 percent of people under 18 years old who were identified to have mental health problems received any kind of treatment. Today, about 50 percent of these children and teens will receive the treatment they need. The growing number of young people getting treatment is partially thanks to a national trend toward coordinated health services. Below is an excerpt from The Boston Globe's report on Massachusetts' growing number of pediatric offices sharing space with psychologists.
Children who go to a Wellesley pediatrician can, if needed, see a psychologist in a nearby exam room. At a medical office in Peabody, boys and girls with anxiety issues can simply go upstairs to see a social worker. And at a Newton pediatric clinic, children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are able to see an on-site nurse practitioner specializing in mental health.
These are among a growing number of Massachusetts pediatric practices that are sharing space with mental health professionals, a move aimed at improving access to hard-to-obtain psychological services and at sending the message that treating children’s depression and behavioral issues is as important as following their asthma and diabetes.
Roughly one in four pediatricians in private practices in Massachusetts works in a setting that now includes some type of mental health service, according to a preliminary survey of members of the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “In the last two or three years, there’s significant growth in this kind of collaborative care,” said Dr. Ellen Perrin, a developmental behavioral pediatrician with Tufts Medical Center who conducted the survey with a colleague. “There is a recognition that the nation’s mental health system is broken, especially for children, and we have to do better.”
This model is one example of a national trend toward more coordinated services, which centers on primary care doctors working closely with specialists to keep patients healthier and, ideally, to lower overall costs. Getting different clinicians in the same space is not practical in every case, but many pediatricians believe it is the best way to address children’s behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders, which are being diagnosed at far higher rates than ever before.
Senate Committee Approves Changes in Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Advocates for Juvenile Justice Reform Rally at Hearing for Bel Air Teenager Accused of Killing Father (DaggerPress.com)
Friday’s demonstration came ahead of a motions hearing in Robert Richardson’s case, and was the latest organized by a group which seeks to have his case—and Richardson himself—moved back into the juvenile criminal justice system.
- The Crucial Role of Prosecutors in Juvenile Justice (JJIE.org)
The role and responsibilities of the juvenile prosecutor are plentiful and extend well beyond the courtroom. In fact, in cases involving juveniles, much of the work can and should be done outside the courtroom. Working collaboratively with other youth-serving agencies in their communities, prosecutors often play a leadership role in these efforts.
- Senate Committee Approves Changes in Juvenile Justice System (AJC.com)
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved proposed changes to the juvenile justice system Wednesday after making some adjustments to address concerns of judges. House Bill 242, which has passed the House, is designed to send fewer juveniles to state facilities for committing felonies and to divert kids who are not dangerous — especially so-called status offenders such as truants, runaways and the unruly — into less expensive community-based programs.
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.
Florida: Wansley Walters Video on Juvenile Justice Reform
While we need to hold teens accountable for their actions, simply locking them up isn’t effective. Young people in the juvenile justice system need more treatment, better treatment, and support beyond treatment.
I encourage you to watch this brief interview with Wansley Walters, secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. In the video, Secretary Walters shares her views on the importance of early assessments and prescriptive measures in juvenile justice reform. We need to continue this investment to stay on track and reduce crime. "As the resources pull away, the problem starts to creep back in," Walters says.
Georgia: Mental Health is a Huge Issue in Justice Strategy
Discussion about mental health and other substance abuse treatment alternatives was front and center last week when criminal justice system officials addressed House and Senate joint appropriations lawmakers at the State Capitol. “Mental health is a huge issue in all the things we do,” Judge Robin W. Shearer said on behalf of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges.
Georgia is in the early stages of significant adult and juvenile justice system reforms that focus on how to ensure incarceration for the most serious offenders, and how to provide community treatment options for offenders who do not benefit from or even require incarceration.
Last year the General Assembly passed reforms to move the adult corrections system toward those goals. This year legislators are expected to approve sweeping reforms to juvenile criminal law and the civil code. Governor Nathan Deal has made reforms a personal priority and his budget devotes millions of dollars to these goals.
The importance of mental health considerations was evident early in the hearing.
Innovation Brief: Juvenile Justice and Mental Health: A Collaborative Approach
Models for Change recently published an innovation brief, “Juvenile Justice and Mental Health: A Collaborative Approach,” [PDF download] that reports the benefits of a collaborative model for juvenile justice and mental health. Although teens with mental health problems used to be handled outside of the juvenile justice system, a shift in the 1990s placed “rehabilitation” responsibility to the juvenile justice system. From the report (emphasis mine):
High crime rates [in the 1990s] led to get-tough measures, including zero-tolerance policies in schools and criminalization of normal adolescent behaviors, that put more youths in the system. The closing of psychiatric hospitals, a trend that began in the 1970s, continued apace, while the community mental health system, initiated with such optimism in the 1960s, was being downsized. As a result, youths with mental health problems frequently ended up in the juvenile justice system, which could not refuse to serve them.
To better serve teens with mental health troubles, Models for Change recommends a framework for multi-system change, including (via the report):
Q&A with Pamela Hyde: Mental Health and Public Health Law
The keynote address at last week’s 2013 Public Health Law Research (PHLR) annual meeting was from Pamela Hyde, JD, administrator of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“People are just beginning to wake up to the knowledge that behavioral health [issues are] so common and that half of all Americans have a mental health issue at sometime in their lives,” Hyde told meeting attendees. Depression, according to the World Health Organization, is the most common medical disorder worldwide. And among the eight million people in the past year who had a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder, only 6.9 percent received treatment.
“The country has to spend as much time helping children develop their emotional skills as they do their soccer skills,” said Hyde.
Just prior to the PHLR meeting, NewPublicHealth spoke with Administrator Hyde about public health law research and some new initiatives aimed at helping address behavioral health in the United States.
NewPublicHealth: What research is critically needed on mental health issues to help improve awareness and treatment?
Call for Applicants: Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program
The US Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) are seeking applications for funding for the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program. The program is designed to increase public safety and improve access to effective treatment for people with mental illnesses involved with the criminal justice system by facilitating collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, mental health treatment and substance abuse systems. Each grantee is given the opportunity to tailor their programming to respond best to the particular needs of their community.
The BJA welcomes applications from local and state governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, and tribal organizations. Applicants must demonstrate that both a government agency responsible for criminal or juvenile justice activities and a mental health provider will administer the proposed project.
Applications are due by 11:59 pm ET on March 25, 2013. Apply here!