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Mental health assessments in juvenile justice: report on the consensus conference.

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Center for the Promotion of Mental Health in Juvenile Justice, Department of Child Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York 10032, USA.



At national, state, and local levels, there is increasing recognition of the importance of identifying and responding to the mental health needs of youths in the juvenile justice system, as policymakers and practitioners struggle to find ways to address causes and correlates of juvenile crime and delinquency. The proposed guidelines for mental health assessment provide explicit information about how, why, and when to obtain mental health information on justice youths at each important juncture in processing.


A national group of expert researchers and practitioners convened in April 2002. Experts derived six recommendations, following the expert consensus method, for conducting mental health assessments in juvenile justice settings. Experts had broad experience creating collaborations between juvenile justice, mental health, and child welfare systems and understood the policy and health implications of conducting such assessments in juvenile justice settings.


Consensus Conference recommendations regarding screening for emergent risk, screening and assessment of mental health service needs, comprehensive mental health assessment components, assessment before community re-entry, need for periodic reassessment, and staff training are presented.


Deriving specific recommendations that can be implemented systematically is a necessary first step toward policy changes that will optimize the standard of care for this vulnerable population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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