JUVENILE LAW AND MENTAL HEALTH
Also, this article discusses the formulation, implementation, financing nd modifying of the Juvenile Reform Act of 2017 in order to make it more effective in improving the ability of the juvenile system to provide quality mental health services to the children population which encounters the juvenile system. This article acknowledges the fact that the juvenile system has for a long time been used in rehabilitative efforts directed toward children with mental illnesses but because of deficiencies in policy, has not been able to fulfill this role. Juvenile Law and Mental Health Introduction. The Juvenile Reform Act of 2017 (S-860) originated from the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-415; 88 Stat. This law was also amended through P. The law contains some important changes including the phasing out of a policy that allowed children to be detained for running away from their homes or truancy-offences that an adult would not be charged for.
The law also contains provisions to allow a smooth transition for children out of the juvenile system and into society through community-based services, family engagement, re-entry and education. The bill also protects the most vulnerable juvenile populations including pregnant teenagers and victims of human trafficking. The bill also provides alternatives to detention and seeks to improve the conditions of the juvenile system through various ways including reducing fraud and wastage of resources, and increased transparency and accountability. Nonetheless, the law still fails to properly address the issue of mental health. The inadequacy of child mental health care in the United States dates back to the 1990s when a considerable decline in the availability of psychiatric health services for the children population happened.
It was during this time that many communities resort to the juvenile justice system which was the only available option that could attempt to compensate for the deficiency in mental health services for the youth. The downside to this shift, however, was that youth correctional facilities were ill-equipped to treat mental health disorders. According to the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile System, a significant number of challenges plague child correctional facilities thus making it inadvisable to rely on such facilities for the provision of mental health services for children. These challenges include lack of training for employees, inappropriate staffing, inadequate resources and ineffective administrative capacity. Furthermore, the proportion of children with mental health disorders in correctional facilities is profoundly higher than that in the general population.
The fact that an average of about 60 to 75% of children who encounter the juvenile justice system meet criteria for a psychiatric illness is a cause of considerable concern (Waxman, 2006). Moreover, about 10% meet criteria for a substance use disorder, and 67% of male juvenile offenders and 76% of female juvenile offenders in correctional facilities were found to have a minimum of one psychiatric condition (Waxman, 2006). Overall, 50 to 80% of the population of children in juvenile correctional facilities suffer from a minimum of one diagnosable mental health disorders (Waxman, 2006). These statistics point to the need for urgent policy change with the aim of helping children acquire appropriate mental health services and to recover from these mental health disorders. Another worrying factor for the status of mental health in this population is that children are exposed to extended periods of restraint in isolation, and given the high prevalence of mental health illness in the population of children in correctional facilities, does little to solve the problem (Congress, 2004).
Proposed Changes The health policy changes needed to improve the mental health outcomes of children who encounter the juvenile system and to provide an alternative treatment for children outside of incarceration need to be formulated with the primary goal of improving mental health outcomes in US citizens under the age of 18 who encounter the juvenile system (Congress,2004). The health policy changes were thus formulated based on existing evidence-based research that identifies the problems and solutions pertaining to mental health in the context of the juvenile correctional systems in the United State. These changes include the provision of a continuum of mental health and substance abuse services based on research to address the unaddressed needs of juvenile system-involved children and their kin, inclusive of re-entry and diversion services.
Also, a policy change regarding the Juvenile Reform Act of 2017 should include the requirement that practices and programs for children in juvenile correctional facilities are trauma-informed and evidence-based. Furthermore, it is essential that juvenile correctional personnel consist of trained and experienced psychiatric staff. The personnel should consist of nurses and physicians who have received specialized training in the area of psychiatric health services especially pertaining to individuals under the age of 18. Juvenile offenders should be able to receive quality health services even while in confinement. Moreover, appropriate staffing should be made possible through Juvenile Reform Act of 2017 policy change-there should be increased funding for the recruitment of an adequate number of employees so that every child in the correctional facilities should receive enough attention with the aim of addressing their mental health issues.
Moreover, it is vital that the Juvenile Reform Act of 2017 policy change enable the establishment of effective partnerships between mental health institutions and juvenile correctional facilities such that children who can be rehabilitated without the need of incarceration be referred to these institutions to reduce the reliance on juvenile facilities for the provision of mental health services. Also, for the implementation of this modification of law funding will be borrowed from interest groups on the basis of the large spending power of professional associations, labor unions and corporations which spend millions of dollars every year on campaigns for the influencing of voting practices related to their agenda-these groups include the American Legislative Exchange Council. The implementation of the suggested policy changes on mental health in the context of the children population will include an action plan on how these changes will be implemented, including the need for the inclusion of such concerns in a reauthorization bill and the setting aside of enough funds regarding appropriation bills by the Congress .
The likely arguments of oppossers, including senators who have opposed this bill including Senator Tom Cotton (Arkansas) are that mental health services and juvenile correctional service need to be addressed as separate issues . This argument can be answered by the fact that these two entities are connected because it is the lack of mental health services that forced many communities to turn to juvenile correctional facilities to treat children with mental health disorders. Another likely argument from opposing groups is that such changes should be implemented in the context of health law and not criminal justice law. Pediatrics, 128(6), 1219-1235. Congress, U. S. Incarceration of youth who are waiting for community mental health services in the United States. House Committee on Government Reform–Minority Staff.
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