With the collapse of public mental health services for children and adolescents in the '90s, the juvenile justice system became the dumping ground for youth with mental disorders. Bernalillo County, New Mexico, took aggressive steps to stop this travesty by opening its own mental health clinic for the juvenile justice population.
66% to 75% of court-detained youth in the United States suffer from mental health and/or substance abuse conditions.
20% of detained youth suffer with severe mental health symptoms that significantly limit their capacity to function in daily life.
35% of youth participating in a Bernalillo County detention alternative program in 2011 received mental health services.
The success rate of youth participating in detention alternative programs rose from 75% in 2005 to 91% in 2010-11, with mental health treatment being a noteworthy factor.
85% of youth passing through the detention center suffered with one or more mental health conditions.
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Given the difficult challenges involved in licensing and start-up, the administrative burden and the ongoing financial costs, creating a free-standing mental health clinic is clearly not the best option for every jurisdiction involved in detention reform. On the other hand, Bernalillo County’s successful experience shows that this can be a viable model, with significant benefits.
Without access to the [Bernalillo County] mental health clinic, many youth who currently participate in detention alternatives would instead be locked in secure detention.
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