Caring for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System: Improving Knowledge and Skills features a mental health training curriculum for juvenile justice staff. Approximately two-thirds of justice-involved youth have a mental health and/or substance use disorder. Too frequently, staff supervising these youth have received little formal adolescent mental health training and lack the knowledge and skills to provide adequate supervision and care. The lack of informed care and training can often lead to the use of ineffective and unnecessarily punitive responses to youth, which can further exacerbate a youth’s symptoms and create stressful situations for all.  

The Mental Health Training Curriculum for Juvenile Justice is a specialized curriculum that provides juvenile justice staff with critical information on adolescent mental health to improve their knowledge base and their skills for working with and supervising youth. This 8-hour training addresses adolescent development, mental health and substance use disorders, child trauma, treatment, the significant role of families, and practical strategies for communication and engagement. The training blends didactic learning with interactive exercises and videos, and allows for the inclusion of site-specific information, data, case studies and real-life examples 

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 2015. 

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