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J Behav Health Serv Res. 2001 Feb;28(1):89-95.

The mental health orientation of juvenile courts.

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Center for Mental Health Policy, Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, Vanderbilt University, 1207 18th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212, USA.


Effective systems of care for youth with emotional disorders require shared values among stakeholders toward a variety of mental health issues. Juvenile courts represent one stakeholder group whose values can affect the delivery of services to young offenders with or at risk of emotional disturbances. This research uses statewide data from Tennessee to assess the mental health orientation (MHO) of juvenile courts, their use of treatment options for offenders, and whether MHO influences the treatment referral decision. Results show that courts have a positive MHO, but this subjective orientation does not correspond to higher treatment referral rates. Moreover, service referrals are at a considerably lower rate than estimates of need for this population of youth would predict. While positive MHO suggests a basis for nurturing the shared vision required for effective systems of care, other factors must be considered to account for courts' underutilization of treatment options for juvenile offenders.

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