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Advances 2009-2011 | Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental Health and Substance Abuse: 2009 | 2010 | 2011 


  • Tennessee — State Works to Improve Mental Health Evaluations and Screening: The Tennessee General Assembly established a program to reimburse counties for the incidental costs related to outpatient mental health evaluations of youth charged with felonies, such as costs of detention and transportation to outpatient evaluations. Prior to the new law, the state paid in full only for inpatient mental health evaluations, which created an incentive for counties to use the more costly and sometimes unnecessary inpatient evaluations, rather than less costly, more appropriate, and less invasive outpatient evaluations. The legislation was followed by a new federal grant in 2010 to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and the Administrative Office of the Courts to develop and implement the Integrated Court Screening and Referral Project in ten counties. The program screens youth charged with delinquency for mental health issues in order to better identify youth who need mental health and substance abuse services. Nearly 2,000 youth were screened through the program between October 2010 and February 2012; 61 percent of those youth received referrals for at least one service. H.B. 459/Ch. 593, signed into law July 8, 2009; effective August 17, 2009.
  • Texas — Youth with Mental Illness or Mental Retardation to Receive Continuity of Care: The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) must now discharge from the state’s custody a youth with mental illness or mental retardation if the youth has completed the required minimum length of stay for the offense and if TJJD determines that the youth is unable to progress in rehabilitation programs because of his or her mental illness or mental retardation. The law will also allow youth with mental illness or mental retardation to obtain continuity of care services when they are discharged from TJJD. Prior to the law, paroled youth with mental illness could receive mental health services paid for by TJJD, but those who were discharged specifically due to their mental illness could not. The law will address another gap by allowing TJJD to continue to provide services for a youth’s entire parole term. These services previously ended when a youth on parole turned 17, and some youth did not meet the criteria to receive services for adults. H.B. 4451, signed into law and effective June 19, 2009.
  • Vermont — Legislature Increases Access to Mental Health Services for Detained Youth: Through the 2010 Budget Adjustment Act, the Vermont Department for Children and Families “repurposed” Vermont’s one juvenile detention facility to become a “residential treatment facility that provides in-patient psychiatric, mental health, and substance abuse services in a secure setting for adolescents who have been adjudicated or charged with a delinquency or criminal act.” By making this change, the department is now able to draw down Medicaid funding for youth placed at the facility; such funding is usually prohibited for incarcerated youth. Now, all youth placed at the detention center are screened for treatment needs shortly after admission and may gain access to services even if they do not qualify for longer-term placement there. The legislation explicitly states that all youth placed in the facility must maintain their due process rights, despite the change in the facility’s purpose. H.B. 65/Act 3, signed into law and effective February 17, 2011.

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  • California — Senate Concurrent Resolution Acknowledges Rights of Youth and Importance of Treatment: A Senate concurrent resolution in California acknowledges the role that substance abuse often plays in the lives of young offenders and sets forth the rights of all youth in the juvenile justice system. The resolution asserts rights to rehabilitation, treatment, education, family and social services, least restrictive alternatives, reintegration, nondiscrimination, safety and security, counsel, protection from self-incrimination, evidence-based practice, and speedy review. The resolution urges each facility in the state that houses youth or is responsible for the oversight of youth to adopt these rights into the regulations and common practices of the facility. S.C.R. 40/ Ch. 55, passed July 7, 2010.

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  • Colorado — General Assembly Requires Standards for Integrated System-of-Care Family Advocacy Programs: The Colorado General Assembly declared an explicit need for the development of rules and standards for family advocacy mental health juvenile justice programs, as well as technical assistance and coordination for such programs. The legislation makes permanent a demonstration program for system-of-care family advocates and family systems navigators for youth in the juvenile justice system with mental health issues. The “Family Advocacy Mental Health Juvenile Justice Program” must promulgate rules and standards in accordance with the legislation, with an emphasis on a collaborative, strengths-based approach. H.B. 1193/Ch. 71, signed into law and effective March 29, 2011.
  • Iowa — Juvenile Court Proceedings Must Be Suspended Until Youth’s Release from Mental Health Facility: If, prior to the adjudicatory or dispositional hearing in a delinquency case, a youth in Iowa is committed to a residential facility, institution, or hospital based on mental illness or mental retardation, the delinquency proceeding must be suspended until the commitment order is terminated or the youth is released from the mental health facility or hospital. The time limits for adjudicatory hearings and continuances must be temporarily put on hold during the time of commitment for mental health issues. The suspension of the proceedings allows the youth to receive mental health treatment prior to facing delinquency charges or a dispositional hearing in court. S.F. 327, signed into law March 30, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
  • MIssissippi — U.S. Department of Justice Instructs Mississippi to Improve Mental Health Services for Youth: On December 22, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a findings letter compelling Mississippi to reorganize its mental health facilities and departments, while deinstitutionalizing youth and providing community-based services that are more appropriate and cost-effective. The letter was the result of a full investigation that found Mississippi to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the United States Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). DOJ found that Mississippi spends more money proportionally on institutional care, and less on community services, than any other state. The letter states that Mississippi’s practices have “led to the needless and prolonged institutionalization of adults and children with disabilities who could be served in more integrated settings in the community with adequate services and supports.” This change will positively affect many of the justice-involved youth in Mississippi who are inappropriately placed in mental health facilities.

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Photo: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, under Creative Commons License