Youth in Juvenile Detention Centers

December 05, 2014

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A study in Indiana found that youth in juvenile detention facilities who screen positive for mental health issues are significantly more likely than youth who screen negative (61 percent vs. 39 percent) to receive mental health services while in detention and referrals to follow-up care after release. Among youth who screen negative, whites are significantly more likely to receive services and referrals than African Americans and Hispanics. The percentage of youth receiving services and referrals after screening positive did not differ by race/ethnicity, leading the authors to suggest that using structured surveys to identify youth in need of mental health care can reduce racial/ethnic service disparities.

Twenty-one percent of the youth screened positive for mental health issues ‑ that is, they scored in the “caution” or “warning” range on the suicide ideation subscale or on two or more of the other subscales (depression/anxiety, alcohol/ drug use, traumatic experiences, anger/irritability, somatic complaints, and thought disturbances). More than 70 percent of the youth scored in the “caution” or “warning” range on at least one subscale.

Although a positive screen was significantly associated both with receiving mental health services within 24 hours of detention intake and with receiving a mental health referral upon discharge, the authors note that the “influence of a positive mental health screen on receiving services may be time-limited” because the association between a positive screen and services during detention was “much more significant” than that between a positive screen and referral upon discharge.

A higher percentage of Whites (25 percent) and females (33 percent) screened positive as compared to African Americans (18 percent), Hispanics (16 percent), and males (18 percent). Females were more likely to receive services, but no more likely to receive referrals, than males. The percentage of both males and females who received services or referrals declined with age.

This summary based on: Aalsma, M.C., Schwartz, K., & Perkins, A.J. (2014). A statewide collaboration to initiate mental health screening and assess services for detained youths in Indiana. The American Journal of Public Health 104(10), e82-e88.

SPRC Resource Note

Earlier this year, the Indiana Community Health Network (CHN) was awarded a Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLS) grant in support of its Zero Suicides for Indiana Youth initiative which will bring suicide prevention, crisis response, of care coordination services to more than 600 primary care physicians, 11 emergency departments, and 13 hospitals, as well as to build a statewide crisis network including schools, the foster care and juvenile justice systems, and specialty healthcare providers.  In November, CHN received a Glick Fund grant   to extend these services to 20 Indianapolis elementary, middle, and high schools. For more information about Zero Suicides for Indiana Youth and other GLS grantees, visit the SAMHSA Youth Suicide Prevention Grantee Locator