The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and MacArthur are collaborating on an effort to support early diversion for justice-involved American Indian youth with behavioral health needs.

Unfortunately, many American Indian youth end up in the juvenile justice system because they are exposed to risk factors, such as inadequate behavioral health services, that increase their chances of becoming involved in delinquency and violent offending. American Indian communities often lack sufficient law enforcement services, have underfunded justice systems, and are not equipped to provide prevention and diversion services. Given the needs of American Indian youth and the documented inadequacies of their care within the juvenile justice system, there is a growing sentiment that whenever safe and possible, American Indian youth with behavioral health needs should be diverted to effective, culturally relevant community-based programs and services.

Four tribes were selected to participate in this effort based on their commitment to improving diversion policies and programs for these youth: Cheyenne River Sioux, Lower Brule Sioux, Red Lake Band of Chippewa, and Ute Mountain Ute.

“This effort will provide sorely needed resources and support for a youth population that is disproportionately affected by the juvenile justice system,” said Laurie Garduque, Director of Justice Reform for the MacArthur Foundation. “Comprehensive, culturally-relevant services are needed to change the trajectory of American Indian youth involved with the justice system, and to help divert them from further involvement with the system and improve their life chances.”
The initiative will emphasize:

  • improving tribal-state-federal policies and programs;
  • increasing coordination of service provision;
  • developing sustainable policies and programs, and
  • recognizing the important roles of evidence-based practice, treatment, and trauma-informed services.

Tribes will receive technical assistance throughout the duration of this initiative to guide the establishment of models and strategies for diverting youth with behavioral health disorders as early as possible from the juvenile justice system to appropriate, culturally relevant, community-based behavioral health services.

This project is coordinated by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates, Inc. and the Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. For more information, please contact Karli Keator at 862-962-6455.

Juvenile Justice, Justice, United States, Youth