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Publication Citation

54 Psychiatric Services 1629 (2003)


To address the mental health needs of youths who are arrested and detained in Illinois, an initiative was designed and implemented that identified youths with psychotic or affective disorders, linked them to community services, and monitored their cases. This study assessed whether such linkage is possible and whether it improves clinical and forensic outcomes. METHODS: Under the initiative, court staff refer youths who may have a mental illness to a clinical liaison. If the youth is eligible for the program, the liaison works with the family to develop a community-based action plan. For the analysis presented here, the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths-Mental Health Scale (CANS-MH) and the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS) were used to assess outcomes among 314 youths who had completed the program at the time of the study. School and forensic outcomes were also monitored. RESULTS: Seventy-five percent of the youths were successfully linked to at least one mental health or community service. A comparison of average CANS-MH dimension scores at enrollment and program completion indicated that youths' emotional problems decreased considerably within three months of referral. CAFAS scores six months after enrollment improved across nearly all dimensions. Home, community, and school functioning were significantly improved from baseline. Only 42 percent of the youths were rearrested, compared with a statewide rate of 72 percent of detained youths. CONCLUSIONS: By linking youths with significant mental health needs to existing community-based services, it appears possible both to ameliorate psychopathology and to reduce delinquency.