Center for the Promotion of Mental Health in Juvenile Justice

We conduct research promoting the use of evidence-based practices to identify and treat mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and suicidality in youth within the juvenile justice system.

The Center for the Promotion of Mental Health in Juvenile Justice (CPMHJJ), headed by Kate Elkington, PhD, is at the forefront of local and national efforts to promote mental health in community and juvenile justice settings.

Research has documented that rates of mental health disorders are as high as 65% among youth in juvenile justice settings, compared to 21% in the general youth population. (Of those 65%, 11% are significantly impaired by one or more disorders.) Unfortunately, mental health assessment and treatment resources in juvenile justice programs are not necessarily consistent with evidence-based instruments, programs, and protocols. The agencies charged with supervising youth in juvenile justice settings can therefore benefit from supportive guidance in how best to identify and address the mental health needs of this population.

In community settings such as probation, responsibilities focus on:

  • Screening to identify which young persons are likely to require behavioral health services;
  • Procedures for linking identified youths to the mental health and substance use services that will best meet their needs. 

In both community and secure settings, this approach requires standardized, best-practice protocols for identification, linkage of services, and tracking.

Our center has been at the national forefront of these efforts for over 25 years. We have focused on determining the prevalence of mental health disorders at various points of contact with the juvenile justice system (intake, detention, secure care) and on measuring the effects of specific protocols designed to link youth to needed services.

Our research has contributed to the growing body of evidence that timely identification of need and effective service linkage result in lowered rates of juvenile recidivism, with considerable savings to public safety.