Apr 20th, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
A Statewide Assessment: The Prevalence of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Problems Among Detained Juveniles in Idaho
Dr. Tedd McDonald
Research in the past several decades has revealed the startling prevalence of mental health and substance abuse problems among individuals in incarcerated populations. In this study, we examined the prevalence rates of mental health and substance abuse problems among detained juveniles. We also assessed gender differences and rates of comorbidity. Data were collected by clinicians from 11 juvenile detention centers throughout Idaho during 2008. Clinicians administered the Alaska Screening Tool (AST) to 2,060 detained juveniles to determine if they met the diagnostic criteria for a mental health and/ or substance abuse problem. More than 68% met the diagnostic criteria for a mental health problem. Girls (at over 76%) were statistically significantly more likely to meet the AST criteria for a mental health problem than were boys (65%). Nearly 55% of all juveniles met the diagnostic criteria for having a substance abuse problem. Comorbid mental health and substance abuse problems were documented in 41% of the juveniles. These findings suggest that mental health and substance abuse problems are highly prevalent among juveniles detained in Idaho; in fact, having at least one of these problems seems to be the norm. This knowledge adds to the current body of research and supports the need for juvenile justice systems to intervene and aid in treatment of mental health and substance abuse problems to prevent future recidivism and related social costs.