Ohio's diversion program helps juvenile offenders with behavioral health issues

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An evaluation of Ohio's Behavioral Health/Juvenile Justice (BHJJ) initiative in 11 counties by social work researchers at Case Western Reserve University found the program benefits most young offenders diverted from detention centers to community-based agencies to treat mental health issues, drug problems or both.

BHJJ is a program started 15 years ago at the request of Ohio juvenile court judges with help from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

The program serves offenders 10 to18 years old with mental health issues and substantial behavioral, cognitive and emotional problems. Many also have abused drugs and alcohol, have a history of violent or criminal behavior and have had encounters with various county agencies before appearing in juvenile court.

Researchers at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences' Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education analyzed information from caregivers, social workers and 2,545 young offenders who enrolled in the program between 2006 and 2013. Most showed improvements in functioning and decreases in future delinquency and symptoms related to trauma.

Based on the results from diagnostic assessments performed at community behavioral health agencies, nearly 60 percent suffered from a mental health disorder, while 38 percent were diagnosed with both a mental health and substance abuse disorder.

For many, the encounter with the juvenile justice system was the first time they were screened for behavioral health problems, said Jeff M. Kretschmar, PhD, research assistant professor from the Begun Center.

Kretschmar is lead author of the online article, "Diverting Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Issues from Detention: Preliminary Findings From Ohio's Behavioral Health Juvenile Justice (BHJJ) Initiative," in Criminal Justice Policy Review.

Their conclusion: Juvenile offenders can benefit from diversion programs through community agencies with services for mental health problems and substance abuse that they may not have received in a detention center.

The article presents an overview of BHJJ enrollees' characteristics and challenges to help court workers and judges match youths with the most appropriate and effective diversion service.

Kretschmar collaborated on the study with Begun Center researchers Fredrick Butcher, PhD, research associate; Daniel J. Flannery, PhD, director; and Mark I. Singer, PhD, deputy director. The research was funded by Ohio Department of Youth Services and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (Grant number: 4AS3190).

Roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of the youth who had finished the program did so successfully. The next most common reason for terminating the program was due to some form of out-of-home placement (8 percent).

A review by researchers provides a snapshot of the youths in the program:

  • Nearly six in 10 (58 percent) were male.
  • Just over half (52 percent) were white.
  • About a third had been charged with a felony in the prior 12 months to their enrollment in BHJJ.
  • Some reported experiencing physical abuse (18 percent), sexual abuse (nearly 16 percent) and exposure to domestic violence (41 percent).
  • Fifteen percent had previously attempted suicide; another 40 percent talked about it.
  • Nearly 70 percent had a family history of mental health disorder; 61 percent reported a family history of substance abuse.
  • The researchers examined the variables that predicted two important outcomes: completing treatment successfully and engaging in future acts of delinquency.

They found that youth who started using alcohol and drugs before age 12 and who were using when they began the program were less likely to complete treatment successfully. They also discovered that youth diagnosed with both a mental health and substance use disorder were less likely to complete treatment successfully.

Kretschmar said previous research has found that youth with both mental health and substance use diagnoses have difficulties staying in treatment and are more likely to relapse.

Youth with earlier, more significant and more recent juvenile court involvement were more likely to be charged with acts of delinquency after involvement in the program. And youth with more complex substance use issues and those suspended or expelled from school before their participation were more likely to commit a new juvenile crime.


Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Case Western Reserve UniversityNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. M. Kretschmar, F. Butcher, D. J. Flannery, M. I. Singer. Diverting Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth With Behavioral Health Issues From Detention: Preliminary Findings From Ohio's Behavioral Health Juvenile Justice (BHJJ) InitiativeCriminal Justice Policy Review, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0887403414560885

Story originally appeared in ScienceDaily.

Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw

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Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, by two-time Academy-Award nominated filmmaker Rick Goldsmith, tells the story of the “female Michael Jordan," from traumatic childhood to NCAA champion and WNBA superstar; through debilitating depression and near suicide. Holdsclaw's journey reveals the courage behind her mental health advocacy and the hardships of her ongoing recovery, providing a window on the challenges and stigma of mental illness, one of the last social taboos in America.  

Mind/Game is a story of hope and inspiration that provides a realistic picture of life with mental illness, common ground for conversation and a blueprint for moving forward. In the spirit of a true champion, Chamique demonstrates that life doesn’t end with a diagnosis: challenges can be overcome and recovery is within reach. 

Chamique's willingness to speak out about her experiences make this a refreshingly honest film about the stigma of mental illness in America. There is a campaign on Kickstarter designed to raise enough money to get this film made and spread its impact in the sports world, among youth, and beyond. 

Wraparound is worth doing well

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nwiCheck out the new article by Eric Bruns, Co-Director of the National Wraparound Initiative (NWI). In the article, Eric examines some recent research on outcomes from poorly-implemented Wraparound services. He provides evidence that Wraparound has the best chance of succeeding when it is implemented with fidelity.

Bipartisan Senate Bill to fund Mental Health First Aid

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Sharing some really good news from our colleagues at the National Council for Behavioral Health!

National Council Press Release$20 Million Investment an Important Step in Addressing Public Health

Washington, D.C. (March 12, 2015) — Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), with nine additional cosponsors, introduced a bill to amend the Public Service Health Act last night to authorize $20 million in grants for Mental Health First Aid training around the country. This program gives emergency services personnel, police officers, educators, primary care professionals, students and others the necessary skills to recognize mental health and substance use problems and connect people with help in their communities.

“The Senate’s strong bipartisan support of Mental Health First Aid is demonstrative that we are moving in the right direction—and with the $19 million for Mental Health First Aid in the Public Service Health Act, we can take even greater strides in supporting the one in five Americans who suffer with mental illnesses and addictions,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “The National Council is grateful to the Senate sponsors for their leadership and in supporting Mental Health First Aid’s value to the nation.”

Mental Health First Aid introduces people to risk factors and warning signs of mental health and substance use problems, and teaches them a five-step action plan to aid people in distress. Studies show that Mental Health First Aid gives people a tangible way to help others, increases their confidence in doing so and improves mental health literacy.

To date, nearly 350,000 people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid in America. Since 2014, Congress has funded an annual appropriation of $15 million for Mental Health First Aid training around the country. The National Council strongly supports the continuation of this funding in 2016, along with a new $4 million appropriation for Veterans’ Mental Health First Aid.

Documentation of interventions addresses early warning signs of academic and social/emotional problems and monitors interventions

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Documentation of Intervention (DOI) is a relatively new and effective computer software tool used by school teams in Montgomery County, Maryland to measure what they are doing to address students’ academic and social-emotional needs.  School teams meet regularly to identify “early warning signs” of problems students are having in meeting expected academic and social-emotional mastery. Interventions are not just prescribed, but documented and monitored for implementation and fidelity. Teachers are supported and the team may assign specialists to address more intense needs. All interventions and their results are measured using excellent software that examines both academic and behavioral progress toward grade-level mastery.

Support staff are integrated into the team and intervention plans. School psychologists are providing direct services, such as individual and group counseling to address issues relating to anxiety, problem-solving, executive functioning, emotional regulation, and social skills. Additionally, school psychologists are consulting with classroom teachers to address behavior management strategies, academic time-on-task, and learning skills deficits. The DOI data is valuable, as it allows one to accurately measure the effect of an intervention. Student support teams are using the DOI data to better identify when an intervention is working and what may need to be modified to ensure greater progress. All of the student support team members and others participating in the interventions can record their instructional and social-emotional interventions and outcomes for the team to look at. The data can be shared with administrators, teachers, parents, and students to demonstrate the need for and benefit of a specific intervention.

The Documentation of Interventions software program was developed by Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and is being used effectively in many of its 200+ schools. School staff receive special access codes to the DOI system to protect confidentiality, and each provider has a code to input her/his activity and results. Additionally, informal documentation of progress, behavioral observations can be included that do not interrupt the instructional day.

Data does not mean “more testing.” Following every student who has such a plan, enables the team members to have current information across all services. Staff feel comfortable in the data recording process because they see its value in student progress and its connection to their work. The DOI is complementary to another similar software for students receiving special education services to improve IEP documentation.    

The value of such technology is that it helps teachers and school support teams to catch problems early, to provide scientifically-based, agreed-upon, documented interventions whose effects can be regularly examined. Students can also see their progress and how it relates to their persistence, learning skills and coping strategies. Early interventions reduce the “too-little-to-late” syndrome that results in increased failure, greater numbers of special education referrals and, over time, unresolved behavior problems, poor attendance and dropping out. 


dwyerKevin P. Dwyer, M.A., a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, is an education and child mental health consultant. He recently served as a principal research associate for the American Institutes for Research. For over 30 years he practiced school psychology in public schools and held several local, state and national leadership positions in the fields of mental health and education, being responsible for the design, development, implementation and evaluation of programs and practices, for improving school climate, safety, and wellbeing for the education, and mental health of children. He has helped school staff in many districts use data to inform decisions on improving caring and connectedness with students and professional peers. His work, publications, presentations, and practices have influenced public policy and the development of efficient, family focused collaborative child service systems. During his 30 years as a public school psychologist he worked directly with over 10,000 children and their families as well as trained over 6000 educators. He provided psychological services to children, including those with disabilities and those whose anxiety and mental health problems blocked learning and adjustment. He assisted teachers and staff in supporting a caring, inclusive school climate for all children. In 2007 the Maryland Coalition of Families awarded Mr. Dwyer and his wife for their work in making schools more family friendly. He served as president of the National Association of School Psychologist and was given its highest honor, the Life-time Achievement Award.  In 2000 he received the Tipper Gore “Advocacy award for improving the lives and mental health of America’s children” from the National Mental Health Association.

Kristen M. Gracyalny is a school psychologist with Montgomery County Public Schools. She completed her undergraduate training at Towson University within the honors clinical psychology program.  She continued her training at Towson University, where she earned her MA and CAS in school psychology. She has worked as a school psychologist in MCPS since 2010, where she has spent her time meeting the social-emotional needs of students, providing training to school staff on data collection and analysis, and being the PBIS coach for a school. 

“Now is the Time” Project AWARE-Community Grants

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2015 “Now is the Time” Project AWARE-Community (Short Title: NITT-AWARE-C) grants.  The purpose of this program is to support the training of teachers and a broad array of actors who interact with youth through their programs at the community level, including parents, law enforcement, faith-based leaders, and other adults, in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) or Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA).  Implementation of the NITT-AWARE-C program is expected to increase the mental health literacy among youth-serving adults, policy-makers, and administrators of programs serving youth. 

Just over 20 percent of children, either currently or at some point in their life, will experience had a serious mental disorder.  Seventy percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20 percent live with a severe mental illness.   As more people, and particularly youth, experience mental distress, there is a need for increased mental health literacy and basic mental health training for the public.  At times, mental health services are not provided to youth who need them.  The reasons include the failure to recognize problems, fear of negative attitudes and discrimination, and lack of resources (Cowell, 2013).  Adolescents are particularly dependent on adults for recognition of mental health problems, provision of adequate support, and referrals to help (Jorm, Kitchener, and Sawyer, 2010).  Developing the appropriate social support system has been shown to reduce the risk of developing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders (Jorm, et.al, 2010).

In January 2013, the President put forward a plan – “Now is the Time” – which combined executive actions and calls for legislative action that would, among other things, increase access to mental health services.  The “Now is the Time” plan can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/preventing-gun-violence.

The NITT-AWARE-C program is expanding the MHFA and YMHFA training to achieve a wider community impact by training a more diverse group of adults who, in turn, will reach a broader spectrum of adolescents or transition-aged youth within the communities.   For the purpose of this RFA, adolescents refer to youth 12 to 18 years of age, and transition-aged youth refers to youth 16 to 24 years of age.  By training an increased number of adults to be MHFA or YMHFA First Aiders, a community can move toward wide-scale knowledge of behavioral health issues that affect youth and become more effective in addressing behavioral health issues affecting adolescents or transition-aged youth. The implementation of MHFA or YMHFA is most impactful when the training is integrated with a coordinated community-wide plan, which addresses strategic and system-wide change that will improve youth outcomes.

  • Application Due Date: Friday, May 1, 2015
  • Anticipated Award Amount: Up to $125,000 per year
  • Details here

Write An essay, change the world

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It's that time of year again! The International Bipolar Foundation is conducting their global essay contest for middle school and high school students. This is one of our favorite events of the year.

One way to fight stigma is by learning the facts and sharing them with others. To help middle school and high school students do that, International Bipolar Foundation sponsors an annual contest that encourages students from around the world to write essays that educate others about bipolar disorder. A student chooses a topic from the list of suggestions, researches it, and then writes an essay of 500-800 words. Essays are judged by a panel of mental health authors. The winner earns a cash prize of $500, with smaller cash prizes for second and third places.  

FFCMH Call for Papers now online

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The National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health invites you to submit presentations for their 26th Annual Conference.

This year, they are designing distinct tracks to address the most current issues facing children, youth and young adults with mental health challenges and their families. 

The goal of the 2015 annual conference is to answer critical questions that forward the mission of supporting families and providing comprehensive, integrated services that focus on prevention and early intervention in a way that is well funded and proven to be most effective.

American Psychiatric Foundation announces Typical or Troubled grant program

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 The American Psychiatric Foundation is now accepting applications from community organizations, schools, and school districts to apply to implement the Typical or Troubled?®  program in middle and high schools. The deadline is March 31st, so you will need to get on it!

Applicants can apply to implement the Typical or Troubled?® and/or Típico o Problemático?® programs at high schools and middle schools in their community. 

Standard grant support is as follows:

  • For implementation in two to four high schools - Grant in the amount of $500 - $1,000
  • For implementation in five or more high schools - Grant in the amount of $1,000 - $2,000

Application Deadline 

  • All online applications must be completed by March 31, 2015.
  • Click here for a more detailed description of the grant program and implementation timelines.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted online (click here for the online application). Those received by mail, email, or fax will not be accepted or reviewed.

Applications for a standard grant must be identified as one of our three national partner organizations: American School Counselor Association; School Social Worker Association of America; the University of Maryland - CFR.

Applicants who are not affiliated with one of these organizations listed may choose one of the three organizations during the application process.

Many questions about the grant program are addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions. Additionally, there is still space available in a two-hour webinar designed to answer applicants' questions on March 11at 3:30pm (eastern). Space for this informational webinar is limited so make sure you RSVP here:

If you have additional questions, please contact the American Psychiatric Foundation.

9th World Congress on the Promotion of Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental and Behavioural Disorders announces Call for Papers

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The 9th World Congress on the Promotion of Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental and Behavioural Disorders is being held in Columbia, South Carolina, September 9 - 11, 2015. Join your colleagues from all over the world to promote local change through global knowledge exchange! 

The Call for Papers is now open! 

Why you should get involved in this global network
Addressing mental wellbeing is an urgent public health concern and the need for the promotion of mental wellbeing has now become a feature of government policy within many countries around the world although this has not translated into investment and action. During the last decade we have seen rapid improvements in the field but if we are to develop new and innovative policies and programmes for a 21st century approach to mental wellbeing we need to:

  • collaborate on the development of new knowledge and the implementation of programmes and strategies;
  • share information about on-going research and successful programmes, policies and organisational models;
  • facilitate a more integrated approach between treatment/prevention of mental disorder and promotion of mental wellbeing;
  • make the most effective use of scarce resources to implement effective programmes and strategies;
  • enhance investment in mental health promotion and mental disorder prevention;
  • establish networks and collaboration between the different stakeholders engaged in the promotion of mental wellbeing as well as prevention of mental disorder.

The South Carolina Congress
The 9th World Congress provides the opportunity for delegates to address these issues by engaging with international leaders and experts from a wide range of related disciplines to:

  • explore how effective partnership working can assist in disseminating and promoting effective public mental health strategies;
  • help the promotion of mental wellbeing to take its rightful place on the health and social care, economic, cultural and political agendas;
  • effectively use the global knowledge gained and connections made at the conference to promote change in participants’ local communities

Participants are therefore invited from:

  • policy makers and policy administrators in local/national government;
  • professionals and clinicians in health and social care;
  • service users and carers;
  • researchers and scientists;
  • representatives from institutional settings including political, education, health and community care, legal and judicial and employment.

Past meetings

  • The Seventh World Conference (The 21st Century Approach to Mental Health) was held in Perth, Australia, in 2012 and the Conference Handbook, including the abstracts of presentations, can be downloaded in pdf format here .
  • The Eighth World Congress (Mental Wellbeing in All Policies), was held in London, England, in 2014 and the Conference Handbook, including the abstracts of presentations, can be downloaded in pdf format here .
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