Blog: Adolescent Mental Health

Recapping the 2014 Georgetown Training Institutes

National HarborLast week I traveled to National Harbor, Maryland to attend the 2014 Georgetown University Training Institutes on improving services and supports for children, adolescents, and young adults with or at risk for mental health challenges and their families, along with Reclaiming Futures Fellowship Program Manager, Christa Myers.

This year the conference theme was, “Improving Children’s Mental Health Care in an Era of Change, Challenge and Innovation: The Role of the System of Care Approach” with an estimated attendance of 2,000. Below are my key takeaways.

The Youth Movement Has Arrived

Youth MOVE arrivesThere was a great youth track at the conference – and more often than not you could hear fellow attendees in the hallways saying that these sessions were better than any others they had attended.

Youth MOVE Rockstar AwardsBoth Youth M.O.V.E. National and local Youth M.O.V.E. chapters were well represented, along with many other youth organizations from around the country.  On Thursday night the 2014 recipients of the Youth MOVE Rockstar Awards were announced. The recipients were:

  • Niketa Currie, Youth M.O.V.E. North Carolina was named the 2014 Tricialouise Gurley-Millard Youth Advocate
  • Dr. JoAnne Malloy,  Institute On Disabilties was named the 2014 Dr. Gary M. Blau Professional of the Year
  • The Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children was named the 2014 Youth Guided Organizational Rockstar
  • Bruce Brumfield, Center for Community Alternatives was named the 2014 Marlene Matarese Advocate for Youth was named the 2014
  • Youth M.O.V.E. Miami was named the 2014 National Chapter
  • Gregory Foster was given the first ever Honorary Rockstar award for his continued dedication to youth and young adults who struggle with poverty and behavioral health needs.

And a special shout out to Youth M.O.V.E. Saginaw for contributing the soundtrack.


The Power of Storytelling
Homeboy Industries at Georgetown InstitutesStorytelling is critical for organizations dealing with complex issues. The Power of Story Telling: Digital Voices in a Digital Age was a special presentation on the first day of the conference. This session showcased first person narrative video stories by youth from Washington state’s Youth N Action.  

Mental Health Week: Some Numbers to Remember; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Get Involved in National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week 2014

In 2004, the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health (NFFCMH) declared the first full week of May as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This year that week falls on May 4-10, and all are encouraged to participate in a weeklong celebration of advocacy and awareness efforts.

The NFFCMH is striving to make this year’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week the best yet in honor of its 25th Anniversary as the voice for children’s mental health!

The theme for this year is Building a Circle of Wellness to recognize the NFFCMH’s focus on debunking myths, spreading awareness, and promoting not only positive mental health but also overall health for our nation’s children.

This week is designed for those at the national, state and local level to come together and strive toward the vision for healthy children and families. Get involved in any or all of the following ways to show your support for this cause:

Local Teens Work to Restore History; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Local Teens Work to Restore History (
    Kids from El Paso gathered to restore the Trinity Community Center as a part of Global Youth Service Day.
  • Efforts Underway to Boost Low Juvenile Expungement Numbers (
    Thousands of young adults in Cook County are missing out on getting a clean start in life by failing to take advantage of the state’s liberal expungement laws for individuals who’ve committed crimes as a juvenile.
  • Report Says Prosecution of Minors as Adults Has Poor Outcomes (The Chicago Bureau)
    An independent advocacy non-profit has concluded that a piece of legislation dating to 1982 and dubbed the “automatic transfer law,” which compels children ages of 15 or 16 charged with certain felony offenses to be charged as an adult, has significantly problematic consequences that go beyond discouraging rehabilitation and positive development of those sentenced.
  • Models for Juvenile Justice Schools (
    When 17-year-old Moriah Barrett first entered Camp Scott, a juvenile detention facility in Los Angeles County, Calif., she was already far behind in school credits in completing the 11th grade. Because of her charges, she would be spending the next five months of her life at the all-girls’ facility — finishing high school wasn’t on her mind.
  • The Revolving Door: Wyoming Reliance on Jails for Mental Health Services Comes With Consequences (
    In Wyoming as well as around the country, jails and prisons operate as de facto mental health facilities, treating a disproportionately high number of offenders with mental illnesses, substance abuse issues and often both.

Mental Health Month Begins Next Week: Mind Your Health

For 65 years now Mental Health America has celebrated May as Mental Health Month and this year’s theme is “Mind Your Health.” Mental Health America and their nationwide affiliates have reached millions of people to bring awareness to the importance of mental health to overall health and wellness, inform people about how the body and mind interact, and offer tips and tools to protect and promote health.
Here are a few of the ways you can get involved with Mental Health Month this May:

Upcoming Webinar to Announce Recommendations for Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a critical problem for youth in the juvenile justice system. An upcoming webinar, Preventing Suicide Among Justice-Involved Youth: Newly Developed Tools, Recommendations, and Research, will describe a comprehensive set of nine new resources from the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Youth in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System Task Force.
In addition to outlining these new resources, the webinar will also discuss the Juvenile Justice Task Force’s research findings and recommendations for staff working with this vulnerable population, which advance from the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
Alarming facts from the Juvenile Justice Task Force about suicide with youth in the justice system include:

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth in confinement.
  • Over half of youth in the justice system were considering suicide.
  • One-third of youth in the justice system had a history of suicidal behavior.
  • Risk factors for suicide are often more common among youth in the juvenile justice system. Releases New Digital Magazine Featuring Stories of Key Juvenile Justice Issues

Last week the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange launched a new multimedia digital magazine in celebration of its fourth year of journalism. The new magazine will feature top stories in juvenile justice on key issues including mental health, substance abuse and disproportionate minority contact.

This new magazine platform will combine video, text and photography to offer a multimedia picture of juvenile justice and the complex issues surrounding it. The first issue, released last week, includes the following feature stories:

Annual Children's Mental Health Research & Policy Conference Wraps Up

Greetings from the Children’s Mental Health Research and Policy Conference, hosted March 2-5, 2014, by the Department of Child & Family Studies at the University of South Florida. 
It has been a busy week with a robust agenda to expand research; translate the science to practice; expand initiatives to strengthen and sustain healthy communities; and improve the quality of life for children and families.
Research has shown a strong link to between substance abuse and teens seeking mental health care.
Stay tuned for lessons learned.
Photo at right: Portland State University was well-represented, as you can see from the contingency (left to right) John Ossowski, Janet Walker, Susan Richardson, and Nancy Koroloff.

How Laura Nissen is Changing the World

Congratulations to Reclaiming Futures founder and former national director Laura Nissen on her appointment as dean of Portland State University's School of Social Work.
Laura is a tireless advocate for vulnerable people and works especially hard on behalf of communities helping teens overcome mental illness, drugs, alcohol and crime.
Do you have a fond memory of Laura or kudos to share? Please add your congratulations in the comments section below.

Digging Deeper: Report on Justice-Involved Youth with Mental Health Needs

A new report, “Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System [PDF],” details effective responses to youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system. The Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change's report highlights the scope of the problem, identifies scientific breakthroughs, and encourages community-based treatment interventions that provide more appropriate, effective responses to youth with mental health needs. 
The key takeaway from the report explains:

Whenever safe and appropriate, youth with mental health needs should be prevented from entering the juvenile justice system in the first place.

View or download the report in full [PDF].

New Report Details Effects of Mentoring on Teens

MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership recently released "The Mentoring Effect: Young People's Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring.”Via the press release (emphasis mine):

The publication links mentoring to significant life outcomes for youth and highlights a substantial gap that exists in America: one in three young people will reach adulthood without having a mentor. A nationally representative survey of youth informs this report, which reveals that at-risk youth with mentors are much more likely to attend college, participate in extracurricular activities, take on leadership roles, and regularly volunteer in their communities. The publication outlines opportunities for the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to integrate mentoring as a key youth development strategy.

View or download the report and executive summary.

Improve Diversion for Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders

Will yours be one of five states selected to receive expert technical assistance to help young people? You won't know if you don't apply.
Applications are being accepted for Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders: An Integrated Policy Academy-Action Network Initiative, made possible with support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Selected states will convene core teams of senior-level officials at the state and local levels to implement a school-based or probation-intake diversion program for youth with behavioral health disorders. This work will emphasize:

  • Decreasing the unnecessary involvement of youth with behavioral health problems in the justice system
  • Using research-based screening and assessment practices
  • Recognizing the important role of evidence-based and trauma-informed practice and treatment
  • Increasing collaboration among stakeholders to facilitate access to community treatment and services
  • Reducing the overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system

The full announcement and application materials are available for download at Applications will be accepted through Friday, February 28, 2014. 

New Webinar Series, Girls Matter!, Addresses Adolescent Girls’ Behavioral Health

It's no secret that adolescence is a time of transition with unique challenges and pressures for both girls and boys. The Girls Matter! webinar series aims to turn the attention to how these challenges and pressures affect adolescent girls. One in four adolescent girls experiences a behavioral health problem, but research shows a gap in services, support, and important behavioral health care for adolescent girls—the very tools that help girls successfully transition into adulthood.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is launching Girls Matter! in an effort to bridge the gap between services, support and health care for adolescent girls with behavioral problems by providing professionals with information about the critical needs of girls today. The six-part series features professionals from multiple fields and specialties who share a passion for helping teen girls thrive. Continuing Education Hours NAADAC and NBCC CEHs are available through the ATTC Network Coordinating Office.

Breakthrough: Mental Health Solutions for Teens in the Juvenile Justice System

Did you know that around 70 percent of all youth in contact with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder? 
A new white paper by the Collaborative for Change—a training, technical assistance and education center and a member of the Models for Change Resource Center Partnership—discusses the scope of this problem, scientific breakthroughs that can help, and how communities can adopt better solutions for youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system.
In the white paper, Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System, the substantive focus of the Collaborative for Change includes: 

1. Mental health screening within juvenile justice settings
2. Diversion strategies and models for youth with mental
health needs
3. Adolescent mental health training for juvenile justice
staff and police
4. Guidance around the implementation of evidence-based
5. Training and resources to support family involvement in
the juvenile justice system
6. Juvenile competency

Access the full white paper on

NCMHJJ Announces New Resource Center

The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) recently created a new resource center, Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change, to continue to advance the juvenile justice reforms initiated by the states participating in Models for Change. Via the announcement:

The Collaborative for Change promotes the mental health reforms that came from Models for Change by supporting their adaptation, replication, and expansion in the field. Its primary areas of focus include critical topics such as: mental health screening, diversion models, mental health training for juvenile justice staff and police, evidence-based practices, family involvement, and juvenile competency. We offer a 24/7 online Resource Center, a Help Desk, and are available to provide consultation and technical assistance.  

Watch the video below to learn more about how mental health treatment can help teens:

2014 Brings Change to the Georgia Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Juvenile Justice Redefined (
    Times change. And science changes. And however belatedly sometimes the law needs to change to take all of that into account. In reaction to some admittedly horrific crimes, lawmakers — here and around the country — rewrote laws that allowed juveniles to be sentenced in adult courts to some very adult penalties, including life in prison without the possibility of parole.
  • 2014 Brings Change to the Georgia Juvenile Justice System (
    Georgia is making some changes when it comes to juvenile offenders, a new law will be put in place to reduce the number of minors in lockup and help save the state thousands of dollars. Starting this year, only those who commit serious offenses will be held in custody and as for those accountable for minor offenses, they will be placed in community based programs instead.
  • Looking Back: A Year in Juvenile Justice (
    As 2013 concludes and 2014 begins, JJIE has compiled a selection of some of our most compelling stories from the last year. Collectively, these articles tell of issues in juvenile mental health, improvements in alternative forms of treatment, the danger of stop and frisk, and more.

Confronting Bias in the Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Black Girls Disproportionately Confined; Struggle for Dignity in Juvenile Court Schools (New Pittsburgh Courier)
    African American girls continue to be disproportionately over-represented among girls in confinement and court-ordered residential placements. They are also significantly over-represented among girls who experience exclusionary discipline, such as out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and other punishment.
  • Teen-Produced Video Highlights Campaign to ‘Raise the Age’ (
    Last summer, a group of teens enrolled in a program at the New York Center for Juvenile Justice decided to take on what they see as an unfair practice in a recently released video called “Because I’m 16.”
    “Because I’m 16, I can’t drive at night,” a teen says as the video begins. It lists other things you can’t do as a 16-year-old -- drink, smoke, buy a lottery ticket, see an R-rated movie.
  • Reforming the Juvenile Justice System Could Save Hawaii Millions (
    Hawaii is spending nearly $200,000 per bed per year to house juvenile offenders, most of whom got in trouble for non-violent low-level crimes. But the state could save millions of dollars a year by focusing only on the most serious offenders and putting the savings back into the community to help with mental health and substance abuse programs for young offenders, juvenile justice experts say.
  • Confronting Bias in the Juvenile Justice System (
    In the ABC News video, the white youth and the black youth both appear to be trying to do the same thing: steal a bike in broad daylight in a community park. But the two actors playing thieves, both filmed by hidden cameras at different times, get decidedly different reactions from passers-by.

Informed Journalism: Reporting on Teens and Mental Health

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) recently hosted a webinar exploring issues around journalism and juvenile justice system. Via JJIE:
Say you've just been assigned to do a story on a 15-year-old kid in trouble with the law. She's got drug problems, she may have mental health issues -- is her story unusual? If her probation officer tells you the girl has been sent to treatment, but it "didn't work," how do you know what questions to ask next?
Get the answers and more in this webinar, where you'll learn about:

  • the actual prevalence of mental health and alcohol and drug issues among young people in the juvenile justice system;
  • why effective treatment is critical to safe communities;
  • how treatment services are funded and regulated;
  • where to go for information about treatment funding and programs in your jurisdiction.

About the presenter: Benjamin Chambers is a writer and editor specializing in juvenile justice who currently works as communications specialist for the National Juvenile Justice Network. Prior to that, he spent seven years working for the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice in Portland Oregon, where he directed the local Reclaiming Futures project.

Yelling, Threatening Parents Harm Teens' Mental Health; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • OP-ED: U.S. Must Increase Juvenile Justice Protections for Children (
    "Chicago, my hometown, was the home of the world’s first juvenile court. We are very proud of our history in the pioneering of a separate and more rehabilitative court for children in the United States. And so it comes as a shock to realize that children in the United States have fewer – significantly fewer – legal protections than children in other nations."
  • Gov. Mead of Wyoming Seeks to Collect Juvenile Justice Data (
    Gov. Matt Mead is asking state lawmakers to budget $500,000 for a system that would allow officials to track information about juvenile offenders in the state. Tony Young, Mead's deputy chief of staff, said Thursday that the money would cover installation of the system to track data about young offenders at the five juvenile detention centers in the state, as well as the Wyoming Boys School and Wyoming Girls School.
  • Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Expands Across Indiana (
    Indiana’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) will include nineteen counties as the initiative expands across the state. Eleven counties will join the eight current JDAI counties thanks to a partnership of all three branches of government.
  • OP-ED: Diagnosis: Adolescence, Not Otherwise Specified (
    "Think back to your teenage years for a moment. Were you ever impulsive? Was it important to fit in? Did you make poor decisions? Did you ever do something that (if you had been caught) could have led to serious consequences? Don’t worry if you answered yes to any or all of these questions: you are not alone. For those working with teenagers, the good news is that we now know more than ever about why adolescents tend to have these characteristics or behaviors."

Holidays in the Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • At Thanksgiving, Reflecting on Justice for Native Americans (
    “Native Americans and Juvenile Justice: A Hidden Tragedy,” is an article from the 2008 issue of Poverty and Race, and covers the intersection of this historically disadvantaged group with the modern justice system.
  • OP-ED: Life-Saving Suicide Prevention Resources Address Critical Need in Juvenile Justice System (
    When it comes to high risk for suicide, youth in contact with the juvenile justice system stand out. It is alarming. Fortunately, staff within the system can play a crucial preventive role by working collectively to provide guidance, support and access to needed care.
  • Holidays in the Juvenile Justice System (
    "My wife, Mary Jo, and I were snowbound in Michigan while working on a building project so we lost Thanksgiving with our families in southern Illinois. Missing a holiday with the dozens of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles got me to wondering – what is the holiday experience for a kid in detention?"