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Screening and Assessing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Among Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: A Resource Guide for Practitioners

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2004
90 pages
This guide is designed to be a practical tool for clinicians and practitioners who work with youth having mental health disorders while under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system.
In considering the role of screening and assessment in juvenile justice, the first chapter defines "screening" and "assessment" and then discusses when screening and assessment occur and approaches for providing screening and assessment. The selection of screening and assessment instruments is discussed in chapter 2. Attention is given to screening and assessment for what, whom, and in what context. Also discussed is how to judge the psychometric quality of a screening and assessment instrument. The guide advises that both screening and assessment tools should require low reading levels and use relatively simple response formats and assess mental distress and disorder, along with substance-use needs along dimensions that are useful for the context and purpose of the evaluation at a particular point in the juvenile justice process. They should be amenable to administration with culturally diverse youth, have some evidence for psychometric reliability, and offer age-based and gender-based norms across the age span to which they will be applied. Chapter 3 provides juvenile justice administrators, probation officers, youth counselors, and mental health professionals with a variety of information about a wide range of tools that have been developed for the screening and assessment of youth mental health and substance-abuse disorders. Chapter 4 provides some examples of "best practice" selections within the context of hypothetical programs. This is done through descriptions of "typical" facilities or programs and their circumstances, followed by suggestions for selecting instruments that might best meet those needs. The discussion takes into account the information available on the various instruments reviewed in the previous chapter as well as principles of screening and assessment discussed in the first two chapters. The concluding chapter summarizes recommendations for effective screening and assessment to determine the mental health and substance-use needs of youth in the juvenile justice system. 60 references

Date Published: December 1, 2004