Every single female juvenile offender placed in centers through the Ohio Department of Youth Services is receiving some type of mental health treatment, according to the most recent data released by the state.
By comparison, just 47 percent of males in juvenile corrections facilities are listed on the mental health caseload.
“That 100 percent says a lot about the background that these girls are coming from,” Erin Davies, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Coalition told News 5.
Davies said the discrepancy could be due, in part, to the fact that girls often enter the system later than boys and go longer with undiagnosed mental health issues.
“When girls get to the system they’ve really come from a background of trauma and hurt and the system isn’t really designed to address that,” she explained.
Clinical Therapeutic Supervisor Dr. Klifflora Wright said mental health issues in girls can manifest into a wide variety of ways. Some girls are treated for depression and suicidal tendencies, others suffer from schizophrenia and PTSD.
“By the time they end up in the corrections system, it’s usually very severe,” Dr. Wright said.
Mark Brauer, Vice President of Youth Services at the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in Cleveland said that unruly behavior can sometimes obscure underlying mental health issues in kids.
“That acting out may well be a function of mental health issues that aren’t addressed,” Brauer explained.
As of August, there were 508 youths placed by DYS. About 440 were men and 68 were female. The average length of stay was 12.6 months.
The boys are placed in juvenile corrections facilities but ODYS recently closed facilities for females as counties began increasing use of community-based treatment options over the past years.
Bridget Gibbons, Deputy Director at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center explained that currently, any female committed to ODYS is being sent to secure residential ODYS placement facilities and are then receiving treatment for mental health services.
Records show that Cuyahoga County has the most DYS admissions of any county in the state. The county has specialized dockets and services for youth with behavioral health issues.
Davies and Dr. Wright suggested that much of the money used to house juvenile offenders could be better spent on mental health treatment before kids ever come in contact with the justice system.