With around 40 percent of juvenile offenders in Montgomery County on some sort of psychotropic medication – such as antidepressants – officials believe a new mental health diversion program will get those young offenders the help they need.Montgomery County’s Juvenile Probation Department, in collaboration with Tri-County Mental Health Mental Retardation, has started a program to ensure juvenile offenders with mental health issues get treatment and counseling, instead of detaining them, Director Ron Leach said.The program started Oct. 1.“We’re taking the services to them at home,” Leach said. “The goal is to get them out of detention and into services immediately.”The county funded about $50,000 for the program, and the department also received $50,000 from the state to staff a second care manager, Leach said. The program is capped at 15.Nationally, about 70 percent of juvenile offenders suffer from mental health disorders, with 25 percent experiencing disorders so severe that their ability to function is significantly impaired, according to a 2006 study from the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice.“On any given day,” Leach said, “about 40 percent (of the county’s juvenile offenders) are on psychotropic medication. Not all are severe mental health cases. Many are here for family violence.”Some of the youths with mental health issues are as young as 10, Leach said.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Montgomery County spending juvie diversion funds on mental health
I haven't heard much so far about how local juvenile probation departments are spending diversion money given them last spring by the Legislature to help keep kids out of the Texas Youth Commission, but here's a story out of Montgomery County ("New mental health program aimed at helping juveniles," Conroe Courier, Nov. 2) describing how they're spending the new money on unmet mental health needs:
The comment section to that story included some interesting discussion on whether medicating youth can really help solve crime or whether youth in the juvenile justice system are overmedicated. I don't have strong or well-informed opinions on the topic, but it's worth raising the question.
Still, this seems like a worthwhile use of new diversion funds, focusing on a subpopulation for whom resources are perennially scarce and who TYC is particularly ill-equipped to manage. I'm interested in hearing how other communities are spending their new juvie diversion money.