Rosie D.
Reforming the Mental Health System in Massachusetts

Juvenile Justice Issues

Coordination and integration with juvenile courts, juvenile justice agency staff,  and particularly probation officers, is important for children involved with the juvenile justice system.  There are significant incentives for juvenile justice staff to participate in home-based services planning and delivery for a child, including:


  • Obtaining home-based services in lieu of incarceration, detention, or commitment to a juvenile justice agency;
  • Obtaining mental health consultation on effective interventions and strategies to meet the child’s mental health needs;
  • Communicating with a single care manager and single treatment team regarding the child’s progress, including adjustments to the treatment plan if needed to address issues before they become problems;
  • Obtaining training for juvenile justice staff to respond to a child’s needs and behaviors in a consistent and effective manner;
  • Ensuring that home-based services and supports are available to children while in the juvenile justice system and when they transition out of the system;
  • Including mental health treatment goals and objectives in juvenile court orders, with referrals to external resources to assist in meeting these goals; and
  • Ensuring that the mental health needs of the child are met even when decisions are made not to proceed with any formal juvenile court action regarding the child.  

To achieve these benefits, the child’s probation officer or relevant juvenile justice agency staff must be aware of and active participants in the treatment planning process.  The probation officer and/or juvenile justice agency staff can provide valuable information to the treatment team for consideration in the treatment planning process. In some circumstances, the probation officer may be a member of the treatment team.  Treatment plans can, where appropriate, be coordinated with the child’s court order.  With coordination and interaction between juvenile justice officials and the treatment team, more children can be diverted from incarceration, and for those not diverted, the length of commitment can be shortened, and the likelihood of parole violations or recidivism can be greatly reduced.


The Department of Youth Services (DYS) has developed a protocol for participating in the new children's mental health system and the Local Systems of Care Committees, including referral of youth in DYS, membership of DYS staff on care planning teams, and integration of DYS service plans in the Individual Care Plan developed by the CSAs.  Click to view the DYS protocol.


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