Blog: Adolescent Mental Health

NCJFCJ Releases Guide to Trauma Consultation in Juvenile and Family Courts

A growing body of research is constantly giving fuel to the issue of childhood trauma and toxic NCJFCJ Trauma Manual Coverstress—specifically, how they impact health outcomes in the future, and the critical need for juvenile and family courts to become trauma-informed in order to effectively treat these issues. The latest effort to make trauma-informed courts widespread is from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), which has released “Preparing for a Trauma Consultation in Your Juvenile and Family Court,” a guide for juvenile and family courts to become more trauma-informed.

The guide outlines why courts need to be trauma-informed and how they approach building a framework, including:

  • Elements of a comprehensive and successful trauma-informed framework
  • Questions to ask to determine if your juvenile or family court is ready for a trauma consultation
  • How to prepare for a consultation
  • What to expect during a consultation
  • How to put consultation recommendations into action

ACEs Too High, an online news site dedicated to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), regularly reports on the need for more trauma-informed courts that are reflected in this NCJFCJ guide. A recent article by writer Ed Finkel reports on local courts who are adopting models of trauma-informed care, and other tools available, such as the Think Trauma curriculum for staff members in juvenile correctional facilities.

Finkel also reported on the trauma-informed approach used by judges to administer sustainable solutions for at-risk youth. The article interviews several judges to gain their perspective on trauma-informed courts.

Most recently, Pediatrician and ACEs leader Nadine Burke Harris brought ACEs to the forefront once again on a national stage during her TEDMED talk emphasizing the health impact of childhood trauma, indicating that those who have experienced high levels of this kind of toxic stress are four times more likely to become depressed, and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide.

The NCJFCJ guide is more timely than ever, as more and more public health leaders are adding to existing evidence that emphasizes the need for trauma-informed care. A trauma-informed court can be a safe and effective point of intervention to vulnerable youth and families, and can help coordinate support or treatment to improve outcomes and get young people on a positive path.

Reclaiming Futures Names Evan Elkin as New National Executive Director

Susan Richardson has recently announced her plans to leave the position of national executive director of Reclaiming Futures to return to her home state of North Carolina, and we are grateful for her years of excellent leadership. Yesterday, Reclaiming Futures appointed Mr. Evan Elkin as national executive director, effective May 11, 2015.

Raising the legal age for sale of tobacco would keep teens from smoking, panel says; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Passes House (South Dakota Public Broadcasting)
    The state House of Representatives passed a bill revising the juvenile justice system in South Dakota. It focuses on alternatives to incarceration and seeks to keep kids in their communities. Senate Bill 73 comes as a result of a work group that met last year. The group found that South Dakota has one of the highest rates juvenile incarcerations, and the bill aims to reduce those numbers. Representative Brian Gosch is a prime sponsor of the measure. He says it creates a presumption of probation.
  • Positive Youth Justice, Part Four: William F. James Ranch, Santa Clara County, Calif. (The Chronicle of Social Change)
    Last month, The Chronicle of Social Change began “Positive Youth Justice: Curbing Crime, Building Assets,” a series that imagines an entire continuum of juvenile justice services built on the positive youth development (PYD) framework. We accomplish the “creation” of that continuum by profiling successful programs and organizations all over the country. Today, we look at Santa Clara County, Calif., which takes a PYD approach to working with incarcerated juvenile offenders.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • Young Adult And Teen Suicide Rates Nearly Double In Rural Areas Compared To Urban Areas (Medical Daily)
    In the past, rural teens have been more likely to kill themselves as compared to their urban counterparts. Is the same true today, now that technology has woven us together more tightly? Sadly and surprisingly yes: Between the years 1996 and 2010, a new study finds, the rates of suicide among teens and young-adults ranged twice as high in country settings compared to city areas. In fact, the suicide rate in rural areas is nearly double that in cities... and rising.
  • Marijuana may smoke your long-term memory (CBS News)
    Teenagers who smoke marijuana daily may have lingering memory problems and structural abnormalities in the brain, even after they stop using the drug, a small study suggests.
  • New App Helps Doctors Catch Suicide Risk (NBC News)
    Doctors and other health professionals have a new tool to help fight suicide -- an app that helps them ask the right questions and check the symptoms of someone who might be at risk. Nearly half of people who die from suicide have seen a health professional of some sort in the month before their deaths and there are ways to find out who might be at risk and help them, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says.

Social Media Tools to Support Mental Health: Learning From Facebook’s Suicide Prevention Feature

Last week, global social media leader Facebook announced that it will roll out a new feature designed to enable friends to help friends struggling with suicidal thoughts. It stems from the knowledge that Facebook users often share deep, personal thoughts on the channel, and sometimes, this includes thoughts of despair or hurt.

The effort is in partnership with our friends at Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, an interdisciplinary organization based in the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, as well Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and

How It Works

If a Facebook user posts something to the channel that signals that they may harm themselves or are in need of help, his or her Facebook friend now has the ability to “report” it for the social networking service. A team at Facebook will review the post for legitimacy and, if pursued, Facebook will offer to connect the person in need with a helpline worker, as well as recommend resources to learn how to get help.

The new suite of Facebook tools were created with expert input from the mental health organizations listed above, as well as from people who have lived through self-injury or self-hurt.

Why It’s Important

The suicide prevention tools offered by Facebook will reach the channels 1.39 billion users worldwide. Not only does this bring mental health to the forefront as an important discussion as a whole, but it also identifies the need for mental health professionals to think more critically about the intersection of mental health and social media. It begs the question: How can we more effectively reach teens where they already are to improve mental health outcomes?

A recent study from BI Intelligence reports that Facebook remains the top social network for teens, with nearly half of teen Facebook users say they're using the site more than last year.

That being said, we’re also seeing smaller, growing social media channels emerge among teens. On Tumblr—a microblogging platform—46 percent of users are between the ages of 16 and 24. That demographic also dominates on Snapchat, a photo messaging app.

We admire Facebook’s initiative to partner with leading mental health organizations to develop a tool that may help our teens improve mental health, and encourage leaders to continue keeping their fingers on the pulse of social media tools and techniques that teens are using. Understanding their behaviors will help us develop strategies to more effectively reach teens and deliver support.

Panel of Experts Discusses “Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars”

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 5.15.23 PMLast Thursday, WNYC—one of New York’s flagship public radio stations—and Vera Institute of Justice partnered to host the event: The Current State of Institutionalization: Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars.

The event was part of WNYC’s current series “Breaking Point: New York’s Mental Health Crisis” which is a four-part series, hosted by WNYC reporter Cindy Rodriguez, examining the connection between poverty, mental health and the criminal justice system.

Thursday’s event kicked off with opening remarks from New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and included a panel of experts to discuss the following key topics:

  • Systemic issues driving the over-representation of people with serious mental illness in courts, jails, and prisons in New York and across the nation
  • The impact of mental health on public health and safety
  • Types of reforms to the mental health and justice systems necessary to address the crisis

The event was livestreamed and is now available to view in full. Watch it now to hear from the panel, moderated by Rodriguez and featuring the following experts:

  • Ezekiel Emanuel and Dr. Dominic Sisti, authors of the recent commentary “Bring Back the Asylum” in the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Francis Greenburger, founder and president of the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice
  • David Cloud, leader of Vera’s Justice Reform for Healthy Communities initiative

The Teenage Brain on Drugs; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • How a book club is helping to keep ex-offenders from going back to jail (WashingtonPost)
    Barksdale was around their age when he chose the streets over school. By 16, he was arrested and convicted on armed robbery charges, the culmination of a series of ill-conceived attempts to be a man. Now, at 25, he is one. But after spending so many of his formative years behind bars, he wondered: What sort of man would he be? Behind him were two former inmates. They hoped they might find the answers together.
  • Judicial hypocrisy on juvenile justice? (CNN)
    As Wisconsin prepares to try two children as adults in an attempted murder case allegedly inspired by the mythical Slenderman, the prosecution of two preteens in adult court challenges our faith in the juvenile justice system.
  • Proposed juvenile justice reforms discussed (Democrat & Chronicle)
    During a workshop Tuesday at the Center for Youth in Rochester, community advocacy groups learned more about the 38 recommendations made by the Governor’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice for juvenile justice reform that Gov. Andrew Cuomo accepted last month.
  • Nebraska child advocates say court shackles traumatize kids (The Independent)
    Lawyers and advocates for juveniles say Nebraska children as young as 10 years old are treated more harshly in court than some adult offenders, perpetuating a cycle of shame, humiliation and repeat offenses. State lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday on a bill by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha that would prohibit handcuffs, chains, irons or straitjackets on juveniles during court appearances unless deemed necessary for courtroom security.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • The Teenage Brain on Drugs (Psych Central)
    One way to look at addiction is to consider it a form of learning, a type of learning that is extremely effective in its ability to affect the adolescent brain, report researchers working under an NIH grant. The maturation process of the brain may cause teens and young adults to become addicted faster than older adults, because the impulse control centers of the brain are not fully developed in the younger cohort.
  • Student-created conference looks at impact of youth substance abuse (Thousand Oaks Acorn)
    The Westlake Village resident— whose story is hardly unique in the Conejo Valley—was among many people who donated time on Saturday to lead breakout sessions at a substance abuse conference for teens that was presented by the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission’s Drugs and Alcohol Prevention Committee.

Understanding How Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Teens’ Futures

Have you heard of adverse childhood experiences? Known as simply “ACEs,” this approach is rapidly gaining attention among the medical community and public health professionals alike. The issue is spanning boundaries and becoming increasingly pressing as studies unfold that early adversity—ACEs and toxic stress—dramatically impacts health outcomes.

A recently released TEDMED talk from Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explores this issue deeply. Her interest in ACEs began with a study led by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which evaluated more than 17,000 adult patients. The study appointed each adult an ACEs score—a number that documented how many adverse childhood experiences each person had, such as abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence, and parents who were divorced, mentally ill or incarcerated.

The results were striking. The study found that the higher the ACEs score, the more likely adults suffered from dire health outcomes. Specifically:

  • Those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer.
  • Those with four or more adverse childhood experiences are four times more likely to become depressed, and
  • Twelve times more likely to attempt suicide.

Even more, the study revealed that these health outcomes aren’t just a result of high risk behavior, such as alcohol and drug use, that are spurred by toxic stress. These health outcomes result directly from toxic stress. Burke Harris explains that when a young person is exposed to ACEs, his or her stress system is activated over and over, wearing down the system and affecting brain structure and function. Children are particularly sensitive to the impacts of stress activation since they are still developing, and high doses of adversity can also affect developing hormonal systems, immune systems, and the way DNA is read and transcribed.

To tackle this issue, Burke Harris opened the Center for Youth Wellness in California, where her focus is to prevent, screen and treat children with high ACEs scores. The approach is interdisciplinary—a collaboration across health professionals, families and treatment providers—something that we echo here at Reclaiming Futures.

While our focus at Reclaiming Futures is providing substance use and mental health treatment to teens, and mitigating involvement in the juvenile justice system, it’s valuable to understand how ACEs may impact these teens that we work with daily. It’s our approach—the intersection of treatment, family and mentor involvement, and community reintegration—that has the potential to identify those teens who have high ACEs scores, and identify solutions for getting them back on track to bright futures.

Watch Burke Harris’ full TEDMED talk below to hear more on the ACEs impact on futures:

How Communities are Keeping Kids Out of Crime; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Federal Juvenile Justice Funding Declines Precipitously (JJIE)
    When congressional lawmakers last reauthorized the landmark Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, in fiscal year 2002, they appropriated about $547 million for juvenile justice. Today, federal spending on juvenile justice totals less than half that amount — about $251 million.
  • Positive Youth Justice, Part One: Rosie’s Place, Olympia, Wash. (Chronicle of Social Change)
    Last week, The Chronicle of Social Change introduced “Positive Youth Justice: Curbing Crime, Building Assets.” It is a series that imagines an entire continuum of juvenile justice services built on the positive youth development framework. We accomplish the “creation” of that continuum by profiling successful programs and organizations all over the country. Today, we begin with a program in Washington that aims to redirect youth who are, statistically speaking, hurtling towards involvement with law enforcement and the courts.
  • With 'Raise the Age,' Cuomo Continues Push to Reform Juvenile Justice (Gotham Gazette)
    A classic battle between law-and-order Republicans and progressive Democrats is brewing in the state Legislature as Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes adoption of the recommendations of his Commission on Youth Public Safety and Justice - recommendations that include raising the age at which teens can be tried as adults.
  • How Communities are Keeping Kids Out of Crime (Christian Science Monitor)
    Lucas County, which includes Toledo, is one of the leaders in this movement. Juvenile Court officials here do the “my kid” test with every case. They want to ensure all young people are being treated fairly, and they live by the mantra “The right kid in the right place at the right time” – targeting services to their needs and taking care not to mix children who are unlikely to commit more crimes with high-risk youths.
  • To End Solitary Confinement, Rikers Steps Out Of The Box (NPR)
    New York's Rikers Island is the second-largest jail in the U.S., and one of the most notorious. But with a single move, Rikers has taken the lead on prison reform on one issue: Last month, the prison banned the use of solitary confinement for inmates under 21 years old.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • Rampant medication use found among L.A. County foster, delinquent kids (LA Times)
    Los Angeles County officials are allowing the use of powerful psychiatric drugs on far more children in the juvenile delinquency and foster care systems than they had previously acknowledged, according to data obtained by The Times through a Public Records Act request.
  • Child Experience Study Can Identify Mental Illness Early (TWC News)
    Since the 1990s, doctors have used the Adverse Childhood Experience Study--or ACES--to understand what causes mental health problems in children. That study found that negative experiences in childhood--from abuse to even divorce--can shape the mental health of kids as they grow up.

Why Keeping Young Offenders Out of Jail Could Reduce Crime; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Moving Forward (Keloland News)
    A plan to change the way South Dakota deals with kids who get in trouble with the law is getting a lot of support in Pierre. The plan, which is similar to the adult justice reform, would keep kids in their own communities rather than sending them to a state facility.
  • States see marked drop in juvenile prison populations as reforms take hold (Washington Post)
    A falling crime rate and new reforms to the way juveniles are treated by the criminal justice system have dramatically cut the number of young people in state prisons, according to a new report that highlights the success of some of those reforms.
  • Why Keeping Young Offenders Out of Jail Could Reduce Crime (PBS Newshour)
    Juvenile offenders kept under supervision close to home, rather than in secure, state-run facilities, are significantly less likely to be arrested again or commit more serious crimes, according to a new study. Judy Woodruff discusses the findings with Xavier McElrath-Bey of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth and Michael Thompson of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • Income Inequality Hurts Teen Health Around The World As Two Factors Grow Together (Medical Daily)
    A new international study published in The Lancet found that socioeconomic disparities between the richest and the poorest in 34 countries widened over the last decade, and have paralleled a growing inequality gap in health. Overall, poor teenagers were more likely to be less physically active, have higher body mass indexes (BMI), and report more physical and psychological troubles, such as headaches and “feeling low.”
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Reconsiders Stance on Marijuana (Pierce Pioneer)
    The policy statement describes, “The AAP strongly supports the decriminalization of marijuana use for both minors and young adults and encourages pediatricians to advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana. A focus on treatment for adolescents with marijuana use problems should be encouraged, and adolescents with marijuana use problems should be referred to treatment.”
  • School-Wide Prevention Program Makes Teens Half As Likely To Feel Suicidal (Huffington Post)
    Suicide is the third leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide attempts are even more common, with some research suggesting that 4 to 8 percent of high school students try to kill themselves each year, the CDC says.

Trying to Fix America's Broken Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Trying to Fix America's Broken Juvenile Justice System (Rolling Stone)
    As Congress begins its new session, youth advocates are looking forward to the passage of a bipartisan bill that would strengthen protections for young people involved in the juvenile justice system.
  • Whistleblowers Say DOJ Grants Failed To Protect Kids Behind Bars (NPR)
    There's new scrutiny this year on a federal program that's supposed to protect juveniles in the criminal justice system. Senate lawmakers want to pass a bill that would ensure young people are not locked up alongside adult offenders — and they're quietly investigating the use of federal grant money for the program.
  • New Campaign Seeks to Sharply Reduce Youth Incarceration (JJIE)
    The Youth First! Initiative — founded by longtime juvenile justice advocate Liz Ryan — will also seek to reduce rampant racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile incarceration.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • UF study of drug users finds people with ADHD started using at younger age (UFL News)
    Adults with a history of ADHD who use drugs started using substances one to two years earlier than those with no ADHD history, according to a new University of Florida study. The findings highlight the need for earlier substance-use-prevention interventions in adolescents with ADHD, researchers say.
  • Teens in more control during school-based suicide prevention (The Globe and Mail)
    Dr. Danuta Wasserman, a professor of psychiatry at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said the program was likely successful because students “felt that the power of mastering their feelings, coping with stress and choosing solutions was in their hands and not decided or forced by adults.”
  • Teen ‘Pharming’ Is a Rising Concern (Psych Central)
    A new review suggests new initiatives are needed to address the rise of “pharming,” or recreational use and abuse of prescription drugs, among teenagers.

Rikers to Ban Isolation for Inmates 21 and Younger; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Program Strives To Keeps Kids Out Of Jail, Link Them To Services Instead (Hartford Courant)
    "The longer a child stays out of the juvenile justice system, the better the outcome is for that child," said Bernadette Conway, who is the state's chief administrative judge for juvenile matters." Avoidable school-based arrests needlessly deprive children of an optimum education and all too often grossly compromise a child's ability to succeed in life."
  • Rikers to Ban Isolation for Inmates 21 and Younger (New York Times)
    New York City officials agreed on Tuesday to a plan that would eliminate the use of solitary confinement for all inmates 21 and younger, a move that would place the long-troubled Rikers Island complex at the forefront of national jail reform efforts.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • This Is What Happens When We Lock Children in Solitary Confinement (Mother Jones)
    While in isolation, Kenny—who was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder prior to the sixth grade—wrote to his mother, Melissa Bucher, begging her to make the two-hour drive to visit him. "I don't feel like I'm going to make it anymore," he wrote. "I'm in seclusion so I can't call and I'm prolly going to be in here for a while. My mind is just getting to me in here."
  • Teens Influenced by Misconceptions of Their Peers (Medical News Today)
    Research published in Developmental Psychology suggests that teenagers tend to overestimate the amount of drugs and alcohol that their peers use, as well as underestimating the amount of studying and exercise they do.
  • Eight Local Health Providers, UWM Respond to Gun Violence at Schools (
    Through a federal grant created to help communities respond to gun violence at schools, eight regional behavioral health providers and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are working to strengthen trauma and substance abuse counseling services for youth.

Five Reclaiming Futures Sites Chosen to Implement SBIRT

sites map

As a result of new funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, five new Reclaiming Futures sites will pilot an innovative adaptation of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for adolescents.

We vetted 20 competitive applications and selected three existing Reclaiming Futures sites to add SBIRT: King County, Washington; Nassau County, New York; and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

We also chose two brand news sites to incorporate the Reclaiming Futures model with SBIRT included—Washington County, Oregon, and Chittenden County, Vermont—which brings our total number of sites since inception to 41.

Each of the five pilot sites will serve at least 100 youth over the course of three years. The target will be youth who show mild to moderate levels of substance use—a population that doesn’t often qualify for or seek treatment, but who are at high risk for developing worse substance abuse problems down the road. Clinical Director for this initiative, Evan Elkin, will design an engaging, teen-friendly one to five session intervention tailored for a juvenile justice setting that can be administered flexibly depending on the severity of the youth’s substance use.

Read more from Clinical Director Evan Elkin about the SBIRT pilot.

Battling Childhood Mental Illness in Colorado

hospitalcoloradoThirteen percent of children, as young as age six, have diagnosable mental illness. About half of adults with mental illness had problems starting at a young age, and three-quarters of adults with mental illness experienced symptoms by age 22. The recent story of Joshua Plunkett in the The Denver Post, who has struggled with mental illness since the age of three, called attention to the growing need for early treatment for children dealing with mental illness.

Joshua’s story was likely shared in light of the estimated 89,000 children and teens in Colorado dealing with serious emotional disturbances, some of them severe enough that they cannot live with their families.

The emergency room at Children’s Hospital Colorado reported 3,100 kids experiencing a mental health crisis, which has contributed to the 10 to 30 percent average increase each year. The hospital is on track to see more than 3,800 children in mental health crisis at the emergency department this year—many of which are described as suicidal or aggressive and threatening to hurt someone else.

“We are really in a behavioral health crisis in our state,” said Dr. Douglas Novins, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Children’s. “The number of children who are coming here in behavioral health crisis has really increased enormously.”

Recent studies have demonstrated that early treatment is key to improving mental illness; however, kids younger than six are the least likely to receive mental health care if they need it.

Because a huge portion of brain development happens in the first three years of life, treatment at that time can have a lifelong impact, Dr. Shannon Bekman, program manager for the infant mental health program at the Mental Health Center of Denver, said.

The Mental Health Center of Denver provides therapists in several Denver schools and public health clinics to allow kids to get psychiatric care at the same place they see pediatricians. More than 1,500 Denver students received 12,000 mental health therapy sessions last year.

Denver Public Schools has also implemented plans to help combat this growing issue: Every school in the district has either a psychologist, social worker or both, and mental health staff has increased 30 percent in five years.

“If we don’t look at it through the mental health lens, it may be seen as a discipline problem,” Eldridge Greer, director of social emotional learning for Denver schools, said. “If we don’t address mental health, we are not going to get the results we want in academics.”

Read the full story on The Denver Post for more details.

Register for Part II in this Webinar Series: Family Involvement in Juvenile Justice

Last week, I highlighted the value of family and mentor involvement in a teen’s life, particularlymentalhealth teens who have been involved in the juvenile justice system. This week and next, the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice and the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change are building on that topic with a webinar series dedicated to family involvement in juvenile justice.

The first part, “Working with Families,” occurred this week and introduced strategies for teens and families to address behavioral health needs together, and how to integrate family engagement in a strategic and productive way.

The second of the series, “Navigating the Juvenile Justice System,” will be presented December 4 from 2-3 p.m. ET. This follow-up webinar will focus on facilitating understanding for families—engaging families by sharing insight about the system and ensuring they know how to access available services.

Family involvement is critical for youth with behavioral health disorders who are involved with the juvenile justice system. Families need information, training, and support to help them become knowledgeable about the juvenile justice system and effective advocates for their children. At the same time, juvenile justice systems need to ensure that their policies and procedures support family involvement and that staff are trained to better understand the family perspective, the benefits of family involvement, and specific strategies for family engagement.

Webinar: Navigating the Juvenile Justice System
When: December 4 from 2-3 p.m. ET
Presenters: Sarah Cusworth-Walker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy at the University of Washington; Mathilda de Dios, Program Manager at the Northwestern Children and Family Justice Center in Chicago, Illinois
Register here

Understanding the Impact of Trauma on Juvenile Justice: New Tool to Support Efforts

Due to the connection between ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and juvenile justice system involvement, it has become increasingly important that the system become more trauma-informed in its processes.

The term ACEs refers to childhood abuse, neglect, and general household dysfunction that negatively affects a child’s development. To improve the treatment of young people impacted by ACEs in the juvenile justice system, there is an ongoing effort to increase knowledge of trauma-informed care and how it can improve systems in health, justice and education.

Communities like ACEs Connection, which work to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and to change systems to stop traumatizing already traumatized people, are already paving the way to combat this problem in the future.

The latest resource to support these efforts is a new tool created by JBS International and Georgetown University National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health. These two organizations came together to build a free online tool called “Trauma Informed Care: Perspectives and Resources” that provides insights and resources for those who want to be more trauma-informed.

The tool includes the following to allow users to take advantage of existing research, knowledge, practices, and approaches that have already shown to be effective in addressing trauma:

  • Video interviews of national, state, tribal, and local leaders in many child-serving systems; developers of evidence-based treatments and practices; physicians; researchers; administrators of provider organizations; clinicians; youth and young adults; families; and advocates who share lessons learned and identify remaining gaps.
  • Issue briefs that provide an introduction and overview for each of the tool’s eight modules.
  • Comprehensive resource lists to support users in understanding how to build trauma-informed systems and organizations.

Explore the eight modules of the tool on the site, which is now live!

For past reporting on ACEs in the juvenile justice system, see the following:

Examining Blame and The Power of Forgiveness Within the Justice System

A recent podcast on Radiolab, “Blame,” examines the question of accountability that often surrounds criminal justice and mental health. Listen in for two enticing stories filled with observations on self-identity, the impact of guilt, and the power of forgiveness.

The episode also includes a discussion on how the legal system could be improved—including an argument that when sentencing, we should forget about blame altogether and focus on the probability of future recidivism instead.

Disaster Mental Health Treatment: Looking Back at Hurricane Sandy

 Flickr user sikeri

Two years ago Hurricane Sandy struck the northeastern coast of the U.S., killing dozens, destroying thousands of homes and affecting the mental health of individuals and communities as a result.

New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver counseling services to those affected, but as OMH Medical Director Lloyd I. Sederer addresses, were these services enough?

Sederer explains in his Huffington Post article that the grants provided to communities delivered three services: outreach to impacted communities, education on common disaster reactions and coping skills, and brief crisis counseling. What’s missing from this bundle of services provided is mental health treatment, despite a 50 percent participation rate in existing crisis counseling services provided.

The most intriguing part of the article is Sederer’s proposed solutions, some of which fall right in line with what Reclaiming Futures champions for mental health and substance abuse treatment. Particularly, Sederer recommends Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral for Treatment (SBIRT) as a valuable addition to traditional counseling services, and specifies, “SBIRT has been used in primary care and emergency settings with notable results.”

Reclaiming Futures is designing and piloting a new version of SBIRT for court-involved adolescents in five sites across the country, offering a promising start to the expanded and more robust mental health treatment programs that Sederer refers to—and for a population who, like those impacted by tragedies like Sandy, are vulnerable to the impact of trauma and loss. Evan Elkin, who is developing the Reclaiming Futures SBIRT model, says:  “Court-involved adolescents show high rates of trauma and often show mental health symptoms that fly under the radar until they get much worse. We view SBIRT as a very nimble and effective way to intervene early with large numbers of vulnerable young people who arrive at the doorstep of the juvenile justice system.”

Reclaiming Futures Featured on the Office of National Drug Control Policy Blog

In recognition of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, I had the honor to contribute to the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s blog. Citing our Reclaiming Futures site in Snohomish County, Washington, I shared why we at Reclaiming Futures believe community involvement is critical to improve mental health and substance abuse treatment, and ultimately build stronger communities around prevention.

Read the full blog post here and contribute your thoughts below.

In Juvenile Justice, Community Involvement is Key to Substance Abuse Prevention

Local artists in Snohomish County, Washington, are contributing their time, tools, and studio space to mentor teens recently involved in their community’s juvenile justice system. For eight weeks, the youth will learn art and photography skills, then produce artwork documenting their lives, families, and communities. Some of their efforts will be featured in local art venues or the local newspaper.

The teens are participants in Promising Arts in Recovery (PAIR), part of Snohomish County’s local Reclaiming Futures program. The goal of PAIR is to establish social and job skills by connecting local artists with at-risk teens who are involved in the juvenile justice system and may be undergoing treatment for substance use or mental health issues. Through programs like PAIR that offer workshops, internships, or job-shadowing opportunities, local professionals are not only helping these young people develop skills necessary to be active citizens, they are helping to rebuild a community around prevention.

Read the full story.

Study Illustrates Impact of Collaborative Support for Teens with Mental Health Issues

holdinghands“Nearly two-thirds of adolescents who have had a major depressive episode don't get treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.”

A new study, Collaborative Care for Adolescents With Depression in Primary Care, examined the impact of a concerted treatment effort among parents and a depression care manager. NPR reports on the study:

“In a clinical trial, researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital split a group of 100 teens who screened positive for depression into two categories. Half were referred to mental health specialists and had their screening results mailed to their parents.

The rest were treated with what doctors call a collaborative care model. These kids were paired with a depression care manager (a specially trained nurse, social worker or therapist) who worked with them and their parents to choose a therapist and make decisions about whether a psychiatric medication might help. The care manager also followed up with the teens every week or two, and called their parents every month.

After a year, only 27 percent of the teens who didn't get that extra coaching had enlisted in the recommended treatment, while 86 percent of the collaborative care group got treatment.”

The study not only explores the general lack of long-term support for teens with depression, it reiterates the need for collaborative parental, medical and community involvement in mental health treatment. That’s our goal at Reclaiming Futures. Providing a strong united support system to kids with mental health issues can prevent substance abuse and crime, helping kids avoid the juvenile justice system altogether.

The Emotional State of Poverty: A Powerful Photo Essay

Last week, published a powerful photo essay illustrating the emotional state of poverty in Troy, NY.

You may be thinking, “What does the emotional state of poverty mean?”

Photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally captured this in her visual narrative featured on As a native of Troy who struggled with teen pregnancy, drugs and an unstable living environment, Kenneally returned to her hometown after getting sober and studying photojournalism to capture what she experienced as an emotional state of poverty. She explains,

“Poverty is an emotional (rather than simply) physical state with layers of marginalization that cements those who live under them into place.”

We often see this emotional marginalization in at-risk teens, which can propel the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. To minimize this impact, Reclaiming Futures sites implement several programs to ensure teens feel supported. A few examples are:

  • Mentors and natural helpers who are matched with young people with similar interests
  • Promising Artists in Recovery program (PAIR), which is a series of workshops for teens to exercise creative outlets
  • Internships and job shadowing in partnership with community stakeholders

Through community partnerships and creative outlets, we can ensure that more at-risk youths feel supported, motivated and not alone.