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Community Stakeholders Announce a New Strategy to Reform The Juvenile Justice System In Harris County Bookmark

Houston, TX (March 9, 2021) - The Harris County Judge’s Office, Harris County Juvenile Probation, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, the Harris County Justice Administration Department, and other community stakeholders have recently completed a Critical Intervention Mapping of the Harris County juvenile justice system. The Critical Intervention Map serves as a framework for juvenile justice and mental health systems to use when developing strategies to improve mental health services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

Representatives from 33 different community organizations established priority areas and developed an action plan. The action items include building or increasing community supports for youth and families; increasing behavioral health capacity to support a continuum of care for youth and families; increasing access of information to youth and families at all points of contact; and examining re-entry process with an emphasis on housing, employment and education. 

 

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who chairs the Harris County Juvenile Board, said, “Incarcerating youth only weakens their ties to family, community and school, and makes it more likely that they will return to criminal justice involvement. The path to a meaningful support system that includes diversion and community-based mental health services runs through the community - and they must have a voice in this process.”

 

“The juvenile justice system should not be the system that first identifies a child’s need for mental health services. By identifying and addressing this need sooner, we may keep more young people from entering the juvenile justice system all together,” added Henry Gonzales, Executive Director of the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. “Our existing collaborations allow families to easily access needed services once they are in our system. We need to find ways to ensure they are able to get these services at other points, just as easy as they do when they intersect with our system.”    

 

The Mental Health Standing Committee of the Harris County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council will act as the lead in implementing the action plan. “Every community I know has gaps when it comes to filling mental health needs. Now, our community has identified the needs and prioritized them so that we can begin to find ways to fill those gaps and improve the delivery system for children and families,” stated Wayne Young, CEO of The Harris Center and chair of the Mental Health Standing Committee. 

 

These strategies may also help other vulnerable populations, such as children and families involved in the child protective services system and victims of human trafficking. 

 

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About the Justice Administration Department: The Justice Administration Department (JAD) was created by the Commissioners Court to act as a resource for all County Criminal and Juvenile Justice Agencies. The Department coordinates amongst stakeholders and provides the members of Commissioners Court, County Criminal and Youth Justice leaders policy research, data analysis, and solutions meant to increase public safety, fairness, equity, efficiency, and accountability throughout the Harris County justice system. For more information, visit https://jad.harriscountytx.gov

 

The Harris Center is the state-designated Local Mental Health Authority and Local Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) Authority serving Harris County, Texas. As the largest behavioral and developmental disability care center in Texas, The Harris Center provided care to over 79,000 people in fiscal year 2019. Learn more at TheHarrisCenter.org

 

 

 

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