We now know that 65 percent to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Many of these youth are detained or placed in the juvenile justice system for relatively minor, nonviolent offenses but end up in the system simply because of a lack of community-based treatment options available to them. The growing awareness of the needs of this population, and the concern over their care and treatment while involved in the juvenile justice system, has created a “mental health crisis” for juvenile justice administrators.
Since 2001, the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice has dedicated itself to addressing this problem and is pleased to announce its latest initiative: the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change: A Training, Technical Assistance and Education Center (Collaborative for Change). The Collaborative for Change is one of four new Resource Centers established by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Building on its nearly 20-year, $150 million investment in supporting juvenile justice reform, the Foundation recently announced an additional commitment of $15 million to the field, in part to establish the new Models for Change Resource Center Partnership. The Partnership will provide juvenile defenders, judges, policymakers, advocates, probation officers, and mental health and social service agencies with much needed technical assistance, trainings, tools, and resources to help advance juvenile justice reform across the country.
By the end of 2013, expert staff will be on hand at each of the Resource Centers to provide tools, training, and technical assistance in areas critical to such progress. The Resource Centers, and their respective areas of assistance, are:
- The Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change: A Training, Technical Assistance and Education Center, led by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice., focusing on response to mental health needs;
- The National Juvenile Defender Center, focusing on stronger legal defense for indigent youth;
- The Status Offense Reform Center, led by the Vera Institute of Justice., focusing on interventions for youth charged with status offenses (activities that are criminalized for those under 18, e.g., truancy, running away, curfew violations); and,
- The Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, led by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps., focusing on coordination of practices and policies for youth involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, and enhancement of probation system practices.
To help further enrich the tools and trainings offered by the Centers, as well as ensure that practitioners and policymakers who may benefit from the resources receive them, the Partnership also includes a strategic alliance of national experts and organizations. These strategic allies, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Center for State Courts, among others, represent state leaders, local elected officials, law enforcement, prosecutors, corrections professionals, judges, court personnel, and justice reform advocates, whose willingness to coordinate and work with diverse partners on juvenile justice issues has been and will continue to be critical to advancing reforms.
To learn more about the Resource Center Partnership and the individual Resource Centers, visit the Models for Change online hub at: http://modelsforchange.net/resourcecenters.