Blog: Adolescent Mental Health

Program fosters trust between youth, police and more; news roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Juvenile Justice Reform and Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Mentally ill children who don't get help can end up in criminal justice system (Northwest Indiana Times)  Parents, judges, prosecutors, and other officials in Indiana say there is a multi-agency failure to provide mental health services to the children who need it most.
  • Are too many kids being sent to court for minor offenses? (Southern California Public Radio)  A growing wave of juvenile justice experts say school districts send too many students to court for minor offenses. Usually those kids are African American or Latino. A nonprofit’s effort to track school citations within Los Angeles Unified School District indicates that the district is following that pattern.
  • Director of troubled youth agency to retire (Texas Tribune)  Cherie Townsend, the executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, announced Tuesday that she will retire at the end of June after nearly four years leading the state's institutions for youth offenders.

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment

  • New report: Health care costs drop if adolescent substance abusers use 12-step programs (University of Wisconsin-Madison) The use of 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, by adolescents with a history of drug and alcohol abuse not only reduces the risk of relapse but also leads to lower health care costs, according to research by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
  • Spotting depression in kids is essential (Albert Lea Tribune) There is a common misconception that many of the symptoms of depression, such as irritability and mood swings, are a normal part of adolescence. This is not the case and should be taken into account if there are other symptoms.
  • A vaccination for depression (Chicago Tribune) Dr. Benjamin Van Voorhees, who is chief of general pediatrics at Children's Hospital University of Illinois, and his team identify kids at risk and then use a combination of traditional counseling and Internet-based learning to stave off mental disorders so they don't fall into substance abuse.

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!

Transitioning At-Risk Youth to Adulthood

In their article, Vulnerable Populations and the Transition to Adulthood, D. Wayne Osgood, E. Michael Foster, and Mark E. Courtney explain that while the transition from adolescence to adulthood is a rocky road for working-class non-college-bound youth, it is even more uncertain for vulnerable populations, such as those involved with the juvenile or criminal justice systems. For these youth, activities are more restricted, making it harder to obtain a college education or develop stable relationships that could increase their chances of success as adults. Among fathers, incarceration has been linked to lower earnings and education, homelessness and material hardship, as well as poorer relationship skills, according to findings from the Fragile Families Study. Effective programs and policies are needed to help protect against these hardships and provide a less troubled transition to adulthood.

One effort to provide support to youth in the criminal justice system is to provide GED and other educational opportunities in correctional facilities. An example of this effort is Princeton University's Prison Teaching Initiative, which operates in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Corrections and Mercer County Community College (MCCC) to provide access to MCCC accredited college courses at New Jersey correctional facilities. Faculty, staff, graduate students, and other Princeton affiliates with advanced degrees volunteer to teach courses in several disciplines. Another example is the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program, a volunteer-based program in Princeton that recruits and trains students and community members to tutor and teach in nearby correctional facilities.

May 9: Children's Mental Health Awareness Day

On May 9, 2012, the OJJDP and SAMHSA will observe National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day to promote recovery and resilience for young people in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The two agencies will support efforts to help the public recognize signs of chlid trauma, promote treatment for children's traumatic experiences and promote trauma-informed social services and supports. 
Why is this important?
As we learned at this year's JMATE conference, childhood mental health problems increase the risk of substance use and addiction (because many teens are self-medicating) and substance use increases the risk of developing mental health problems. Trauma (especially when experienced at a young age) severely affects a child's ability to cope and affects brain size (NOT intelligence). And 92% of incarcerated kids have experienced one or more traumas during their childhood.
To learn more about National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and to plan an activity, visit

Homeboy Industries: Changing Lives and Creating Opportunity in East Los Angeles

I really wanted to attend the Homeboy Industries and teen substance abuse interventions panel at JMATE, but didn't make it to the session. So I missed learning about Homeboy Industries' Project STAR program that works with recently released juveniles with a history of the substance abuse. They offer in-house, trauma-informed treatment that is sensitive to the unique needs of formerly gang-involved youth. Mental health services are a central part of the program, as are job trainings and academic and life skills classes.
Started as an alternative to gang violence in Los Angeles, Homeboy Industries trains and hires at-risk, recently released and former gang involved young people with the goals of transforming troubled youth into productive members of their communities. They provide free counseling, education, tattoo removal, substance abuse and addiction assistance, job training and job placement services.
Fast Company has a terrific piece on Homeboy Industries, its founder (Father Gregory Boyle) and the key people in charge of running the nonprofit.
Father Gregory Boyle moved to East Los Angeles 26 years ago, and began walking and biking the neighborhood. He became friendly with the community and even visited gang members in the hospital. And one day, he realized that he could help residents escape the pervasive cycle of violence.

Juvenile Mental Health Court in DC Shows Early Success

In Washington D.C., juveniles charged with certain offenses (including some misdemeanors and non-violent, low-level felonies) and diagnosed with a mental illness, can apply to be diverted to a specialized mental health court.
There, under the guidance of Judge Joan Goldfrank, youths are held accountable for their specific problem behavior—such as school attendance, substance abuse, or avoiding mental health treatment.
Early results are encouraging: out of the 56 enrolled in 2011, only eight were subsequently re-arrested. This rate, 14 percent, is far lower than the average re-arrest rates out of D.C.’s general juvenile courts, which hovers around forty percent.

OJJDP Seeking Probation Agencies for Youth Mental Health Screening Project

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is seeking state-level probation agencies in adolescent mental health screening and risk/needs assessment areas.
From JuvJust:

The National Youth Screening and Assessment Project will support the participation of two state-level juvenile probation agencies in the Mental Health Screening and Risk/Needs Assessment in Juvenile Justice Demonstration Project. The probation agencies, which will be selected through a competitive process, will participate in the evaluation of an empirically informed approach to case planning. The project will evaluate and improve probation agencies’ decision-making skills when processing youth in the juvenile justice system, thereby reducing costs, improving resource allocation, and reducing further delinquency.

Sponsored by the OJJDP and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, this initiative is part of a broader partnership to improve outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
Applications are due February 27, 2012.

HHS Calls for Comments on Essential Health Benefits Package under the Affordable Care Act

In December, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a bulletin outlining proposed policies that will give states more flexibility and freedom to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the proposed policies, states will have the ability to individually determine the list of services that make up the Essential Health Benefits Package under the ACA. These will be used to determine insurance coverage in future state insurance plans. HHS is currently accepting comments from the public on the plan until Tuesday, January 31, 2012, at
From the Bulletin:

Essential Health Benefits
The Affordable Care Act ensures Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance. To achieve this goal, the law ensures health plans offered in the individual and small group markets, both inside and outside of the Affordable Insurance Exchanges (Exchanges), offer a comprehensive package of items and services, known as “essential health benefits.” Essential health benefits must include items and services within at least the following 10 categories:

  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

New juvenile court guidelines help struggling students & more: news roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment

Nearly 1 in 3 youths will be arrested by age 23

Nearly one in three youth will be arrested for a non-traffic offense by the time they are 23 years old. 
This startling statistic comes from a new report published today in Pediatrics. According to Robert Brame, a criminologist at UNC-Charlotte and principal author of the study, "arrest is a pretty common experience."
This analysis was last done in the 1960s, when researchers found that there were 100 inmates per 100,000 people in the population. Today's study found that there are now 500 inmates per 100,000 people. Researchers suggested that rates increased due to a more aggressive policy for truancy/vandalism/underage drinking/shoplifting and because transition from adolescence to adulthood has become a longer process. 
Of particular note is the authors' decision to publish the study in a medical journal instead of a journal focused on criminologists. The researchers believe that pediatricians have a role preventing violent or unsafe behaviors in their at-risk patients, explained Prof. Brame in a HealthDay article.

Are you eligible for a Second Chance Act grant? And more -- news roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment

  • Massachusetts theatre company receives federal grant to work with youth
    The Salem Theatre Company was recently awarded a grant from the Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Project, a program of the US Department of Health and Human Services, to work with local youth. They plan to create three short plays focused on healthy choices with regards to nutrition, substance abuse and youth violence.

Youth detention facilities are providing inadequate health care

Youth in the juvenile justice system are at high-risk for physical, mental and developmental health issues according to a new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence. Despite this, many youths don’t receive the level of health care they need, either in the system or when they get out. The report represents the first update in 10 years to the Health Care for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System.
Nationwide 11 million juveniles were arrested in 2008, according to the report. And while not all arrested youth are placed in some form of detention (either short- or long-term) the median stay in custody in 2006 was 65 days. Eighty percent remained in detention for at least 30 days and 57 percent for at least 90 days. All of those youths require healthcare of some kind.
“We wanted to advocate for these youth to have the same level and standards of care as non-incarcerated youth in the community,” the report’s lead author, Dr. Paula Braverman, Director of Community Programs at the Cincinatti Children’s Hospital Medical Center said in an email. She said the Committee on Adolescence also “outlined specific recommendations which included the training and skill of the health care providers.”
Currently, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) publishes standards for care in juvenile facilities. At a minimum, the NCCHC says, youth should be screened by health care professionals immediately upon arriving at an intake facility to check for contagious conditions, urgent health needs and suicidal thoughts. Within seven days of intake, youth should be given a hands-on, comprehensive health examination by a doctor. Girls and boys are tested for sexually transmitted diseases and vaccinations are updated. A further mental health screening must be performed within 14 days. A dental examination must be performed within seven days.

Law school partners with reclaiming futures to help teens and more -- a juvenile justice news roundup

  • Join the CyberShoutout October 28: Making Smart Choices Kicking off National Drug Facts Week, the CyberShoutout is a day-long special event featuring discussions in social media by bloggers, organization leaders, and other stakeholders on the topic of youth drug abuse. The Shout is hosted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.
  • National Drug Facts Week is October 31-November 6
    Hosted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Drug Facts Week is a health observance week for teens that aims to shatter the myths about drugs and drug abuse. Through community-based events and activities on the Web, on TV, and through contests, NIDA is working to encourage teens to get factual answers from scientific experts about drugs and drug abuse.
  • Abstracts Due November 1 for JMATE
    The Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness offers a unique opportunity for for practice, research and treatment communities to exchange ideas and data, thereby moving the field of adolescent treatment toward effective, evidence-based and promising practices. The conference is Tuesday, April 10 through Thursday, April 12, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Proposed rule for the health insurance exchanges a threat to mental health and substance abuse disorder providers?

The federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released a proposed rule for the health insurance exchanges, created by the new health care reform law.
According to the Legal Action Center, it fails to identify mental health and substance abuse disorders providers as essential community providers that serve predominantly low-income and medically underserved populations. In addition, they state there are other improvements to the proposed regulation that would better ensure that the health needs of people with mental and substnce sbuse disorders are better met.
Read from their statement after the jump:

Improving State Juvenile Justice Systems and More -- News Roundup

  • Why Are All the Black Kids in Special Ed?
    Minority students (and especially Black students) are disproportionately diagnosed with disabilities and placed in special education or lowest-level courses. The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia makes the case for seeking a second opinion.
  • Lasting Drop in Smoking, Delinquency, Drug Use
    Study shows that tenth-graders in towns using Communities That Care, a prevention system developed by University of Washington researchers, are less likely to have tried drinking or smoking compared with teens living in towns that had not adopted the system. Delinquent behavior, including stealing, vandalism and physical fights, decreased too.
  • Kids-for-Cash Sentencing Set for November 4
    Robert J. Powell, the former co-owner of two juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania who testified he paid kickbacks to two judges, may serve 21 to 27 months in prison for failing to report a felony and abetting tax evasion.

Scholarships, Data and More: Juvenile Justice and Adolescent Treatment News Roundup

  • Scholarships for Judges Managing Challenging Family Law
    This training is co-sponsored by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the National Judicial College, October 24-27, 2011, in Reno, Nevada. The scholarships would cover the $985 tuition fee and the participant would be responsible for the $245 conference fee as well as their own travel expenses.
  • National Geographic Examines the Teenage Brain
    Excitement, Novelty and Risk: A strength-based look at adolescence as a highly functional, even adaptive period.
  • OJJDP Bulletin Examines State Juvenile Transfer Laws
    In the 1980s and 1990s, legislatures in nearly every state expanded transfer laws that allowed or required the prosecution of juveniles in adult criminal courts. This bulletin, which is part of the Juvenile Offenders and Victims National Report Series, provides the latest overview of state transfer laws and practices and examines available state-level data on juveniles adjudicated in the criminal justice system.

Elections, Liquor and Riots -- A Juvenile Justice Adolescent Treatment News Roundup

Call for Abstracts: Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) 2012


Want to present at the 2012 Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE)? The organizers have put out a call for abstracts. (They're due November 1, 2011). Here's the official announcement: 

We are thrilled to announce that the 2012 Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) is taking place April 10-12, 2012 in Washington, DC. 
We are currently seeking abstract submissions! The deadline for submission is November 1, 2011. For complete details and instructions on how to submit your abstract, please see the attached 2012 JMATE Call for Abstracts (PDF) or visit the Abstract Submission page of the JMATE Website at
If you have any questions or additional information needs, please contact us at  Thank you for your continued work on behalf of adolescent treatment and recovery!

>>Download the call for abstracts here.

Fit for Trial in the Juvenile Justice System (and More) -- News Roundup

New Guide for Community Collaboration (and More) -- News Roundup

  • Promising Practice: Helping Young People into Employment
    LA Fitness founder Fred Turok spearheaded "Transforming a Generation," a program that provides on the job training and has helped 1,400 young people into jobs or higher education.
  • Two OJJDP Grants Cut for Lack of Funding
    The Comprehensive Anti-Gang Strategies and Programs and Evaluation of the Second Chance Act Juvenile Mentoring Initiatives were worth $750,000. Both grants were not awarded due to spending cuts in 2011. (Hat tip to Youth Today)
  • NIATx Training: Billing Third-Party Payers
    This learning collaborative will focus on giving behavioral healthcare providers, including adolescent substance abuse treatment providers, the skills they need to bill third-party payers for their services. Application deadline has been extended to September 23.
  • New Guide for Community Collaboration
    The National Collaboration for Youth has created "Invitation to the Big Picture: Implementing a Local Collaboration for Youth in Your Community," a guide to identifying or forming an association of local child- and youth-serving agencies. Please use and share this guide with your national and local networks. (Hat tip FYI)