Objectives: We determined whether or not juvenile detainees with major mental disorders received treatment, and the variables that predicted who received services.
Methods: Our sample was 1829 randomly selected juvenile detainees taking part in the Northwestern Juvenile Project. To determine need for mental health services, independent interviewers administered the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children and rated functional impairment using the Child Global Assessment Scale. Records on service provision were obtained from the juvenile justice and public health systems.
Results: Among detainees who had major mental disorders and associated functional impairments, 15.4% received treatment in the detention center and 8.1% received treatment in the community by the time of case disposition or 6 months, whichever came first. Significantly more girls than boys were detected and treated. Receiving treatment was predicted by clinical variables (having a major mental disorder or reported treatment history or suicidal behavior) and demographic variables.
Conclusions: The challenge to public health is to provide accessible, innovative, and effective treatments to juvenile detainees, a population that is often beyond the reach of traditional services.