Washington, D.C.—(April 8, 2009) The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) commends Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) for reintroducing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act (JJDPA). The prevalence of mental illnesses is higher in children and adolescents in the juvenile justice system than in the general population1 with more than 70 percent of children and adolescents in the juvenile justice system having a diagnosable mental illness2.
“The reintroduction of JJDPA legislation will allow us to continue to focus treatment and intervention for the most vulnerable and underserved. These kids have higher rates of mental health diagnoses including learning disabilities and substance abuse compared to their peers,” said Louis Kraus, M.D., chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University and co-chair of the AACAP’s Juvenile Justice Committee. “Early education and intervention programs that target at-risk children and adolescents and work with them before, during, and after the adjudication process will reduce recidivism.”
The Act includes funding for increasing training for juvenile justice personnel and focuses attention on prevention programs to keep children from entering the criminal justice system altogether. Additionally, the Act states the need to support a continuum of programs that include delinquency prevention, intervention, substance abuse treatments, and aftercare. The JJDPA states that children should be treated in facilities dedicated to children and adolescents.
“A prevention component that targets children and youth at risk is long overdue,” said William Arroyo, M.D., co-chair of the Juvenile Justice committee. “It not only aborts a trajectory of suffering and antisocial behavior, but it avoids enormous costs incurred by public systems when youth enter the juvenile justice system. Research supports this strategy.”
The AACAP is a non-profit medical association representing more than 7,500 child and adolescent psychiatrists. The AACAP educates community leaders, policymakers, government agencies, legislators, service providers, professional organizations, and child advocates on the critical need of making mental health services more accessible to the thousands of children involved in the juvenile justice system.
For more information on AACAP’s advocacy on behalf of juvenile justice reform, please contact AACAP’s Assistant Director of Government Affairs, Alec Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.966.7300, ext. 126.
1. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. 2004. Thousands of Children with Mental Illness Warehoused in Juvenile Detention Centers Awaiting Mental Health Services. Washington, D.C.
2. National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. 2006. Youth With Mental Health Disorders in the Juvenile Justice System: Results from a Multi-State Prevalence Study. Delmar, New York.
Representing over 7,400 child and adolescent psychiatrists nationwide, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is the leading authority on children's mental health. AACAP members actively research, diagnose, and treat psychiatric disorders affecting children, adolescents, and their families.
AACAP Mission: The Mission of the AACAP is the promotion of mentally healthy children, adolescents and families through research, training, advocacy, prevention, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment, peer support and collaboration.