Effort to Reduce School-Based Arrests Benefits Nearly 15,000 Additional Students This Year in Connecticut

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Eighteen Connecticut schools in six districts are participating in the Connecticut School-Based Diversion Initiative (SBDI) during the 2016-17 school year bringing the total number of schools served by SBDI to 37. SBDI is a school level intervention designed to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system by connecting students to community-based mental health services as an alternative to arrest. Among schools participating since 2010, the average reduction in court referrals during their first year was 45% and increase in EMPS (Mobile Crisis Intervention Services) referrals was 94%.

“Helping students access behavioral health services can address the underlying causes of misbehavior that may result in arrest and juvenile justice involvement,” said Jeff Vanderploeg, Ph.D., Vice President for Mental Health Initiatives at the Child Health and Development Institute (CHDI). 

A new animated video explaining SBDI is available at http://www.ctsbdi.org, along with additional information and resources. Schools can download a free toolkit designed to help them implement core elements of the SBDI program at little to no cost. Although overall rates of in-school arrests are declining, the issue continues to be a concern in Connecticut and nationwide, particularly among youth of color and youth with unmet mental health needs. Approximately 65-70% of youth in juvenile detention have a diagnosable behavioral health condition.

The SBDI model was co-developed in 2008 by CSSD, DCF and CHDI with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through the Models for Change Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network. This year the model was adapted to have leaders from participating districts serve as the local SBDI implementation coordinators for the selected schools. The SBDI model was also adapted to help Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Nevada, with funding and support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates (PRA). Beginning in 2017, with funding from the National Institutes of Justice, CHDI will work with PRA to disseminate a school, justice and behavioral health collaborative approach to improving school safety in Michigan and Louisiana. 

Visit www.chdi.org/sbdi or www.ctsbdi.org to learn more. Download a copy of The SBDI Toolkit: A Community Resource for Reducing School-Based Arrests and CHDI’s IMPACT: Improving Outcomes for Children in Schools: Expanded School Mental Health. For additional questions, please contact Jeana Bracey at bracey@uchc.edu or 860-679-1524; or Julie Tacinelli at tacinelli@uchc.edu or 860-679-1534.

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