Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $549,693)
In 2022, approximately 87% of youth detained in the Douglas County Youth Center (DCYC) on any given day were youth of color; around 61% were black youth and about 21% were Hispanic. This is in stark contrast to the jurisdiction’s overall population demographics, in which 72% of youth are white, 10% are black, and 11% are Hispanic. This racial/ethnic disparity is important given that multiple scholars have found people of color to be less likely to seek mental health treatment. In addition, certain educational factors may place youth of color at a higher risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system. While about 16% of Nebraska youth have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs); 53% of youth in DCYC have IEPs.
The goal of this proposal is for Douglas County and Charles Drew Health Center to expand the existing Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI) beyond its established processes. The BHI is a comprehensive cross-systems collaborative with multiple public and private justice system and mental health organizations. As the lead applicant, Douglas County is requesting $549,693 to fund three roles that will assist the BHI in improving public safety responses and outcomes for youth released from detention.
First, Douglas County will contract with a clinical child psychologist or assessment psychologist to conduct court-ordered psychological evaluations and testing. It currently takes 2-3 months for detained youth to be connected to community-based psychological providers; the availability of these services within DCYC will allow testing to be completed in 1-2 weeks, thereby connecting youth to services more quickly and expediting their release from detention to an appropriate placement.
Second, a contracted school psychologist will administer psychological and academic testing to help detained youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. The internal availability of a school psychologist will expand DCYC’s capacity to identify and address the educational needs of youth. Finally, a contracted attorney from Education Rights Counsel will provide legal representation to advocate for the educational rights of youth and their families. By bolstering these supports and reengaging youth with individualized academic plans, the educational services provided by DCYC will enhance protective factors to decrease the likelihood of recidivism.
These services will be provided to all youth who are court-ordered to remain detained; we expect to serve around 400 youth each year.
Douglas County was previously awarded JMHCP grant funds in 2021 to incorporate virtual reality technology into mental health treatment plans for detained youth (15BJA-21-GG-03973-MENT).