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Task force releases comprehensive guidelines, principles for juvenile mental health diversion

Task force releases comprehensive guidelines, principles for juvenile mental health diversion

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Upwards of 70% of young people in the justice system have a diagnosed mental disorder, and 90% have experienced a traumatic life event that can negatively impact their mental health. To assist courts and service providers in addressing the growing mental health crisis, the National Judicial Task Force to Examine Courts’ Response to Mental Illness recently released a set of Juvenile Justice Mental Health Diversion Guidelines and Principles.

“While the recommendations are not new, necessarily, they are compiled in a manner that comprehensively describes how courts can implement effective diversion processes for young people with mental health needs,” said Teri Deal, an NCSC principal court management consultant who staffs the task force’s juvenile justice subcommittee.

Based on current best and evidence-based practices—including the use of screening tools, trauma-informed approaches, and minimal court intervention for youth with low-risk to reoffend—the document outlines critical components of effective diversion solutions.

The guidelines include:

  • Commit to integrated approaches and cross-system collaboration.
  • Employ standardized mental health screeners and assessments.
  • Develop continuum of evidence-based treatment and practices.
  • Commit to trauma-informed care.
  • Ensure fair access to diversion opportunities and effective treatment.
  • Maximize diversion and minimize intervention for youth with low risk to re-offend.
  • Provide specialized training for intake or probation officers.
  • Measure program integrity and diversion outcomes.

The subcommittee recommends that courts review the guidelines and assess their current practices to identify opportunities to enhance the way they support young people with mental health needs. Then, working with a cross-system, multi-disciplinary team, courts can work together to implement practices aligned with the guidelines, referencing the resources cited.

“There have been calls for juvenile courts to divert youth with mental health needs from formal court processes, and many juvenile courts, in partnership with probation and detention, apply mental health screening tools to identify youth in need of services,” Deal said. “The issues arise when there is not an easily accessible continuum of services in the community, when young people face long wait times, or when there is inadequate family or community engagement. The juvenile court holds an integral role in championing mental health diversion and partnering with communities to address these barriers.”

To learn more about juvenile justice mental health diversion, contact Deal or visit the National Judicial Task Force to Examine Courts’ Response to Mental Illness.

April webinars offer something for everyone

Be sure to mark your calendars for a busy month of NCSC webinars.

Today, the Blueprint for Racial Justice is continuing its “Jumpstarting Your State’s Pretrial Improvement” series with a look at “Research on Pretrial Assessment, Release and Detention” starting at 1 p.m. ET. A new Blueprint for Racial Justice series, “Financial Sanctions Reform,” begins on April 27.

Next week, a panel of NCSC experts will be on hand for “What Are We Learning About Remote Hearings?” on April 14. The discussion will explore new studies—ranging from analyzing judicial time in Texas to considerations in child welfare cases and judicially led diversion programs.

The Joint Technology will offer its third Cyber Monday offering, “Cyberinsurance: Should You Pay the Ransom?” on April 25.

To learn more about upcoming NCSC webinars or catch up on recorded sessions, visit ncsc.org/webinars and engage with us on social media using #NCSCWebinar.