Racial differences in the mental health needs and service utilization of youth in the juvenile justice system

Purva Rawal, Jill Romansky, Michael Jenuwine, John S. Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Mental health placement rates by the juvenile justice system differ by race. However, it is unknown whether mental health needs differ by race. This study attempted to investigate potential differences in mental health needs and service utilization among Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic juvenile justice involved youth. A stratified random sample of 473 youth petitioned, adjudicated, and incarcerated from 1995-1996 was examined using a standard chart review protocol and the Childhood Severity of Psychiatric Illness measure for mental health needs. Significant and unique mental health needs were demonstrated for all racial groups. African American youth demonstrated the greatest level of needs. Minority status indicated significantly lower rates of mental health service utilization. Minority youth in the juvenile justice system are most at risk for underserved mental health needs. Based on the current data, it can be inferred that the first contact with the state's child and adolescent serving system, which includes the juvenile justice and mental health sectors, appears to be through the juvenile justice sector for many minority youth with delinquency problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-254
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Behavioral Health Services and Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded in part by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission. This work was completed while receiving funding through the National Research Service Award. The authors acknowledge Jane Barden for her assistance in the editing phase of this work.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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