Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System examines initiatives that support community youth reform through training, technical assistance, education, and partnerships. Instead of relying on the justice system to address the mental health needs of youth, it is now recognized that the more appropriate and effective response involves community-based treatment interventions that engage youth and their families. 

Through collaboration amongst researchers and practitioners amongst the country, this document addresses the following questions: 

  • How widespread are mental health challenges in America’s juvenile justice system? 
  • What new scientific breakthroughs can help youth with mental health needs who come into contact with the juvenile justice system? 
  • How can more communities adopt these better solutions for youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system? 
  • What can be done? 

The National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice (NCYOJ) originally developed and maintained this resource. The NCYOJ was operated by Policy Research, Inc. and operated from 2001 to 2022 and was formerly known as the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. The NCYOJ improved life opportunities for youth through systems and practice improvement initiatives.  

This resource should be viewed as a reference document. It has not been updated since its publication. In addition, this document has not been made 508 compliant. If you would like a 508 compliant version of this document, please email 

This resource was first shared in 2014. 

(PDF, 212KB)