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The Blueprint for Change” report released by The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice in 2007 highlights the need to address mental health treatment from a unified approach that includes both the juvenile justice system and mental health agencies. 

The report mentions several important cornerstones in the treatment of youth with mental disorders. One of the key points is that all juvenile justice involved youth should be systematically screened for mental illness”. Between 65 to 70 percent of the youth in the juvenile justice system have diagnosable mental health disorders. The critical intervention points” is where mental health issues should be identified and interventions planned. Critical intervention points” include; initial contact and referral, intake, detention, judicial processing, secure placement, probation supervisor, and re-entry. 

Diverting youth with mental disorders from confinement to community-based programs is a vital piece on the continuum of care that should be available to youth involved with the juvenile justice. State correctional facilities and local detention facilities have not demonstrated the capacity to properly serve this population when it comes to providing appropriate mental health services, thus placing even more weight on the need to improve community mental health agencies’ ability to serve this population. 

As long as the juvenile justice and mental health systems remain in opposition of each other, the youth will continue to suffer from lack of needed services. Reducing the tension between the juvenile justice systems and combining forces with the community agencies enhances the county’s ability to provide appropriate services to these youth. By creating a better network system among community agencies and government agencies, a more efficient system can be cultivated to locate the necessary services for this specific high-needs population. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice has been determined to not only improve the communication among community agencies, but also diverting the youth from incarceration. 

~Rebeca Ishii, CJCJ staff