Stemming the Tide: Diverting Youth with Mental Health Conditions from the Illinois Juvenile Justice System

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Author(s): The Illinois Mental Health Opportunities for Youth Diversion Task Force

Published: 2018

Report Intro/Brief:
“The Illinois Mental Health Opportunities for Youth Diversion Task Force was created to identify and recommend diversion programs that will help treat youth with mental health conditions in the community and avoid initial or further involvement in the justice system.

The Task Force prioritized early intervention, as it provides the best opportunity to divert youth to services that will both impact the quality of their lives and prevent the negative impacts of system involvement. However, youth with mental health conditions are seen across the system and those with significant behavioral health needs are found deeper in the system. Our recommendations present a road map to build a stronger diversion system that addresses youth with mental health conditions specifically.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. Improve mental health screening for justice involved youth.
  2. Invest in early intervention for serious mental health conditions.
  3. Expand screening and sustain the Illinois Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services (CCBYS) program.
  4. Train communities in mental health awareness.
  5. Expand Crisis Intervention Team Training for Youth (CIT-Y) programs across the state.
  6. Avoid the use of arrests for misdemeanor offenses committed by youth living with mental health conditions.
  7. Implement best-practices for new or existing Juvenile Assessment Center model programs.
  8. Evaluate the effectiveness of station adjustments for juvenile offenses.
  9. Expand the implementation of juvenile mental health courts.
  10. Expand funding for the Mental Health Juvenile Justice Initiative.
  11. Ensure eligible youth are enrolled in Medicaid before release.
  12. Alleviate the medication gap upon release.
  13. Ensure continuum of housing and income upon release.
  14. Track positive youth outcomes, not just recidivism.”

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