Responding to the Mental Health & Substance Abuse Needs of Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Ohio's Behavioral Health/Juvenile Justice Initiative
how Ohio's responded to the mental health and substance abuse needs of youth in
the juvenile justice system by establishing the Ohio's Behavioral
Health/Juvenile Justice Initiative. The consequences of a willful neglect of
some of our most vulnerable citizens were significant and severe. Many
individuals ended up on the streets, and many more found themselves in local
jails. Over time, jails became de facto mental health facilities.
Unfortunately, jails were, and often continue to be, ill-prepared to
effectively screen, assess, and treat individuals with mental health concerns.
The majority of juvenile justice involved (JJI) youth has a history of
behavioral health (mental health or substance use) problems. Multiple studies
estimate that between 65% to 75% of JJI youth have at least one behavioral
health disorder, and 20% to 30% report suffering from a serious behavioral
disorder. Although the majority of JJI youth has a history of behavioral health
issues and trauma, many have not received any treatment when they enter the
Further, local jurisdictions are often ill-equipped to accurately
assess youth for behavioral health problems and provide appropriate treatment.
Thus, those issues persist and complicate efforts to reduce future delinquency.
Further, substance use issues are considered a direct risk factor for criminal
behavior, but mental health issues are typically not. Mental health issues,
however, can certainly affect responsivity to programming designed to reduce
Americans support juvenile justice reform that focuses on
rehabilitation in place of incarceration. The Ohio's Behavioral Health Juvenile
Justice (BHJJ) Initiative was established to address the juvenile mental health
and substance abuse issues.