This report on adolescent substance abuse and mental health issues in the federal legislation governing the juvenile justice system is reprinted, with permission, from the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of The Link: Connecting Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare, published by the Child Welfare League of America. The final fact sheet, suitable for printing, can be found on the Act-4-JJ website.
The first part, below, describes the justification and the key issues; the second part contains recommendations for strengthening the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
When Congress considers legislation later this year to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), mental health and substance abuse issues will be a top priority.
Available data from single site and multisite studies indicate that 70% or more of youth who are securely detained in a juvenile justice facility may suffer with mental health and related disorders; rates of mental health and substance abuse disorders appear to be somewhat higher for girls than boys; and more than 20% of such youth suffer disorders so severe that their ability to function is significantly impaired (Abram, Teplin, McClelland, & Dulcan, 2003; Skowyra & Cocozza, 2007; Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Dulcan, & Mericle, 2002).
Among youth under nonresidential court supervision (e.g., on probation), the rate of diagnosable mental health and substance abuse disorders is approximately 50%.
By comparison, in the general youth population, approximately 20% of youth suffer with mental health and substance abuse disorders. In addition, justice system involved youth may experience behavioral/emotional disorders for the first time because of contact with the juvenile justice system.