Erin Espinosa, research associate at the School of Social Work’s Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, recently wrote in Juvenile Justice Information Exchange about new alternatives for justice-involved youth with mental health needs.

Espinosa states that in 2004 the U.S. House of Representatives found that “two-thirds of juvenile detention facilities across the country reported holding youth in detention not because of the seriousness of their offenses but because they were awaiting mental health care.”

Across the country, states are starting to look at alternatives and diversion models for these youths. Among these alternatives, Esinosa describes the Front-End Diversion Initiative (FEDI), “a preadjudicatory model that focuses on the use of specialized juvenile probation officers (SJPOs) — essentially probation officers who also take on the role of a case manager.”

Preliminary data on the results of this initiative, Espinosa writes, “suggest that by rethinking the model of traditional probation, youth were significantly less likely to be adjudicated and more likely to receive needed mental health supports.”

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