The Children’s Mental Health Campaign works to address the mental health needs of court involved youth and youth in the juvenile justice system. The majority of court involved youth experience some form of trauma before entering the legal system, and require access to appropriate and timely mental health care services. CMHC supports efforts to ensure the legal system is equipped to respond to juveniles in a manner that is both humane and age-appropriate.
Juvenile Court Mental Health Access Project
Health Law Advocates’ (HLA) Juvenile Court Mental Health Advocacy Project (J-MHAP) aims to ensure that court-involved youth get access to the mental health care and services they need. A two year pilot program is underway in the Lowell and Salem Juvenile Courts. Two designated Mental Health Advocates serve each site, advocating for approximately 60-80 youth per year. The project builds on the success of HLA’s Mental Health Guardian ad Litem program, which was highly effective in accessing mental health care for youth. HLA's ultimate goal is replicate and sustain the model program in a way that benefits children across the Commonwealth.
Studies show that, in the United States, 65-70% of justice-involved youth has a diagnosable mental health disorder. Consideration of developmental and environmental factors including trauma, biologically based mental health conditions and substance use disorders must be taken into account when it comes to the imposition of appropriate consequences in criminal proceedings.
The growing body of scientific evidence regarding developmental differences between adolescents and adults is now widely accepted and has informed decisions by both the US Supreme Court and the MA Supreme Court in which they establish legal distinctions regarding in the criminal culpability of adults and juveniles. Paramount among those distinctions is the capacity for change.