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Mental health

Collaborative approaches to meet the mental health needs of youth without unnecessary juvenile justice system involvement.

Each year, more than 2 million youth become formally involved with the juvenile justice system. Of those, up to 70 percent have at least one diagnosable mental health need, and 20-25 percent have serious emotional issues.  Of the more than two-thirds of youth involved with the juvenile justice system with mental health problems, most can be safely and more effectively treated in community settings.

Models for Change is working to better respond to the needs of these youth through early identification of youth with mental health needs, diversion from the system where appropriate, and timely access to appropriate treatment. Pennsylvania and Washington states and the Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network focused on improving the identification of and delivery of services to justice system-involved youth with mental health needs.

The initiative is continuing its efforts in mental health reform through its Models for Change Resource Center Partnership. The Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change, which is led by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Inc.,  is a training, technical assistance, and education center designed to promote and support adoption of new resources, tools, and program models to help the field better respond to youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system.

Through better inter-agency collaboration and more accessible mental health services, Models for Change is developing models that meet the mental health needs of youth while avoiding unnecessary system involvement

Read more about mental health and juvenile justice at JJIE's Resource Hub.  

Featured publications

Initiative tools, research, knowledge, and innovations to promote reform

Publication cover Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System
Jan 22, 2014, Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change
Up to 70 percent of all youth in contact with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Yet, the juvenile justice system is not always the best or most appropriate place…
Publication cover Mental Health Screening within Juvenile Justice: The Next Frontier
Nov 15, 2007, National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice
Discusses issues surrounding the mental health screening of juvenile offenders such as screening procedures, policies and implementation. Chapters of this report are: "Introduction" by Kathleen R.…
Publication cover Knowledge Brief: Does Mental Health Screening Fulfill Its Promise?
Dec 1, 2011, Models for Change Research Initiative
As many as two-thirds of youths in pre-trial detention exhibit behaviors serious enough to qualify them for a mental disorder. Under the stress of detention, these youths can act out in ways that are…
Publication cover Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Co-occurring Mental and Substance Use Disorders
Dec 31, 2013, National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates
Large numbers of youth come in contact with the juvenile justice system each year. In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, 1.9 million youth under the age of 18 were arrested. …
Publication cover Turning Knowledge into Practice: A Manual for Human Service Administrators and Practitioners about Understanding and Implementing Evidence-Based Practices, 2nd edition (revised)
Nov 19, 2010, John A. Morris
The mission of the authors and sponsors of this manual is to enhance independence, self sufficiency, and community living for people with disabilities through the implementation and approaches of…

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Leading organizations

Network partners advancing reforms and providing assistance, lessons, and support

National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice
(518) 439-7415
National Youth Screening & Assessment Project
(508) 856-8732
Technical Assistance Collaborative
(617) 266-5657

More contacts »


Supported by

Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.