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Behavioral Healthcare Needs of Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Children and teens involved in the juvenile justice system have high rates of substance use and mental health disorders. 

To address their substance use and mental healthcare needs, youth with mental health and/or substance use challenges require specialized services both while detained and also after release. Medicaid expansion offers opportunities and challenges in addressing these needs.

Medicaid Policy Series: Connecting Youth to Substance Use and Mental Health Treatment Upon Release from Detention

Jurisdictions seeking ways to connect detained youth to care are likely to face a common barrier—the requirement for parental income information on a Medicaid application. This information can be very difficult to come by at all, and even more difficult to obtain in a timely manner. Often, by the time social workers are able to contact a parent and obtain the information, a youth already has been discharged, and the opportunity for enrollment in time to facilitate care during the transitional period has passed. Many youth are discharged without being enrolled in Medicaid.

Medicaid enrollment prior to release increases the likelihood of engagement in services upon return to the community. Increased continuity of care supports efforts to reduce recidivism and healthcare costs among this population.