The Impact of Behavioral Health Treatment Among Adolescent Offenders

Project: Research project

Project Details


It is well established that youth offenders suffer mental health and substance abuse disorders atdisproportionately high rates when compared to youth in the community without any history of justicesystem involvement. In efforts to rehabilitate delinquent youth and prevent criminal recidivism,policymakers and researchers have developed and implemented evidence-based behavioral healthtreatments specific to offenders. However, the research literature has rarely confirmed that suchservices actually reduce criminal recidivism among adolescent offenders, especially when services for arange of behavioral health needs are considered. Previous studies, moreover, have not quantified thefrequency, duration, and type of behavioral health service utilization most likely to improvedelinquency-related outcomes.Therefore, the primary objective of this project is to assess whether adequate episodes of behavioralhealth treatment reduce criminal recidivism among a large population of adolescent offenders. Toaccomplish our objective, our interdisciplinary research team will prepare and analyze the justicesystem and electronic health records (EHR) of more than 150,000 youth from Marion County(Indianapolis), Indiana. The resulting 15-year retrospective, longitudinal analytic database will includeyouth with a wide array of experiences in both the behavioral health and criminal justice systems. Weexpect that more than one third of sampled youth will have a juvenile criminal record, including morethan 40,000 youth with records from their first encounter with the justice system (i.e., first arrest). Inthis way, we will capture a variety of developmental stages, behavioral health diagnoses, criminalcharges, and pathways through both the behavioral health and justice systems.We will create and to analyze a comparison group of community youth (i.e., non-offenders), in order tostrengthen our understanding of adolescent behavioral health utilization patterns. By employingexisting performance measures of treatment quality for adequate behavioral health treatment, we willhighlight meaningful differences in service utilization between offenders and community youth, andwithin the group of offenders. We expect that differences in the timing and intensity of behavioralhealth care utilization among offenders will affect whether and how treatment reduces recidivism.Lastly, we will assess the role that delinquency case dispositions (i.e., conditions of probation) play inthe relationship between behavioral health service utilization and criminal recidivism. Specific aimsinclude:Aim 1. Compare the behavioral health treatment needs and behavioral health serviceutilization of youth offenders to those of community youth.Aim 2. Test the relationship between behavioral health service utilization and criminalrecidivism among youth offenders.There is a substantial cost of juvenile criminal behavior to society. We expect to quantify if BHtreatment reduces criminal recidivism. The long-term goal of this project is to identify specific pointsalong the continuum of justice system involvement (e.g., arrest, detention, incarceration, and transferto adult court) where utilization of behavioral health services will have the most impact in reducingcriminal recidivism.
Effective start/end date7/1/164/30/20


  • National Institutes of Health: $398,604.00

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