Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Co-occurring Mental and Substance Use Disorders summarizes the approach and outcomes of the partnership between the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in creating an Integrated Policy Academy/Action Network Initiative. This initiative aimed to achieve positive outcomes for youth who were juvenile justice involved through increased collaboration between schools, juvenile justice facilities, and behavioral health providers. This collaboration lead to the implementation of continuity of care and access to integrated, evidence-based, or promising-practice screening and treatment models.

This document describes the initiative’s goal to increase the number of youth with co-occurring disorders diverted out of the juvenile justice system to appropriate community-based services and then follows the progress on that goal. Eight states were selected to participate in this initiative: Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia. Using SAMHSA’s Policy Academy mechanism and the MacArthur Foundation’s Action Network strategy, these states worked together to identify and implement effective practices for screening and treating youth with co-occurring disorders. Core teams consisting of senior-level state and local policymakers met with parallel teams from other states to share and learn about the latest research and effective strategies for screening and diverting youth.

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 2013.

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