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Humboldt County's regional "New Horizons" program delivers impressive results

Humboldt County's Probation Department is leading the way in utilizing innovative funding streams for serving California's highest-risk, highest-need youthful offenders. The department utilizes innovating funding streams in their New Horizons program to provide mental health in-facility and aftercare treatment in a way that puts rehabilitation at the center of their department's mission.

From Humboldt's County Probation Deptartment's website:
New Horizons, an intensive in-custody Mental Health treatment program, is offered within the secure environment of the Northern California Regional Facility. Treatment services include a combination of medication support, individual, group, and family counseling, alcohol/drug assessment and counseling, skill development training focused on anger management, moral judgment, the correction of thinking errors, social skills, and victim awareness.

The transition to the aftercare phase of the program, offered to both participants and their families, includes linkage to the Mental Health System of Care Services, out-patient counseling and/or medication support, and case management services.  Individualized strength-based child and family case plans are developed using the Family Unity process followed by the integration of wraparound services to support the minor and his/her family throughout community care programming.


Wraparound funding was established in California under SB 163 (Chapter 795, Statutes of 1997). It allows California counties to develop the Wraparound Model using state and county Aid to Families with Dependent Children--Foster Care (AFDC-FC) dollars.   This funding stream allows counties to provide mental health services, intensive case management, employment training, access to transportation, and prioritizes family involvement in rehabilitation.   Through a state waiver under AB 1881, Humboldt County, along with several other California counties, is able to provide mental health treatment to their county's highest-need youth . . . those who are currently in the custody of the probation department.

CJCJ found in our 2011 "Renewing Juvenile Justice" report that most county probation departments are not taking advantage of this type of wraparound funding (as well as federal EPSDT funding) even though combined they could provide as much as $6,000 per month for a wide range of mental health and transitional living services for youth.

Humboldt County's results speak for themselves.  From a 2009 Youth Law Center article:
"New Horizons has successfully placed 76 percent of its mentally ill juvenile offenders back with family members after an intensive six-month program at a secure facility. Using family therapy, individual counseling and a six-month aftercare program, New Horizons boasts a 20 percent re-offense rate that contrasts with rates of 50 percent to 80 percent for young offenders nation wide."

California's counties have developed a wide array of creative and sustainable rehabilitative models that are serving serious youth offenders, including San Bernardino's Gateway Program, Santa Clara's James Ranch, and Log Cabin Ranch in San Francisco.  These successful models should be the building blocks for California's juvenile justice realignment.  Not only are many counties already serving serious youth offenders locally using data-driven best practices, most are seeing better long-term public safety outcomes compared to California's DJF, and at a lower per capita cost.  

As California moves forward with full juvenile justice realignment, the state needs to invest in all 58 counties' use and knowledge of best practices.  The counties described above exemplify the best of California-based expertise.  As California moves forward with juvenile justice realignment, care should be taken to build on the innovation and experience of local practitioners that have already implemented model programming for high-risk, high-need youth offenders.

Keywords: Brian Heller de Leon, Humboldt County, mental health, youth

Posted in Blog, Model Local Practices

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