Many state juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs have yet to see cuts due to sequestration, but the impacts may be felt when 2013 funds are distributed in the fall, said Meg Williams, juvenile justice specialist for the State of Colorado. Although the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has not released official numbers, many state programs expect their OJJDP funding to be reduced by 7 or 8 percent and are trying to plan accordingly, she added.
“In Colorado we are being really measured in what we’re committing ourselves to at this point in time,” Williams said, noting that her state has already seen its federal juvenile justice funding more than halved since 2004—cuts that have significantly limited the services and programs Colorado can offer youth.
When funds are scarce, states must focus on the young people who are already in the system, explained Williams, rather than on prevention and early intervention, even though “that’s where you get the biggest bang for your buck.” Williams noted that, “by losing our ability to keep kids out of the system, we cost ourselves more money in the long run. It’s much more expensive to serve a young person already in the system than to prevent them from entering it.”
Williams added that she doesn’t believe that her state’s substance abuse and mental health programs have sequestration figures yet, but she is concerned that budget cuts will lead to reductions in community-based mental health and substance abuse services for children, youth, and their families. Coupled with the sequester’s effects on other funding streams, she worries that young people who might otherwise have been able to safely remain in their communities and at home may instead enter the justice system due to the absence of needed substance abuse and/or mental health services.
If any readers are seeing impacts from the sequester in their own communities, they are invited to contact the author by email:
Lisa Pilnik, JD, MS, is a freelance writer, consultant, and co-founder of Child & Family Policy Associates, a Maryland-based consulting firm.
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