States nationwide are cutting spending on mental health this year, and deeper cuts are on the way for 2010. As a result, cash-strapped mental health programs are relying on juvenile jails to deal with troubled youth.
The New York Times reported:
” ‘We’re seeing more and more mentally ill kids who couldn’t find community programs that were intensive enough to treat them,’ said Joseph Penn, a child psychiatrist at the Texas Youth Commission. ‘Jails and juvenile justice facilities are the new asylums.’
“At least 32 states cut their community mental health programs by an average of 5 percent this year and plan to double those budget reductions by 2010, according to a recent survey of state mental health offices [PDF].
“Research suggests that up to 70 percent of the estimated daily average of more than 90,000 adjudicated youths cycling through local and state adult and juvenile justice placements or facilities have a mental health disorder (e.g., conduct disorder, anxiety and depression) with a risk of suicide four times higher than the general juvenile population. More than half have histories of exposure to violence, neglect, abuse and trauma. It is estimated that up to 75 percent of young offenders have a substance abuse disorder, and as many as 20 percent of this group also suffer from a mental health disorder serious enough to impair their daily functioning.