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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

After discovering that 24 adolescent girls were being confined to buildings with fire risks, holes in the walls, mold and water damage, Nebraska authorities have moved them to another facility. The girls were living in the Geneva Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center, a rural central Nebraska state-run facility for female juvenile offenders. The inhabitants, ranging from ages 14-18, were sent to the facility as a last resort by the court. Many of them have significant behavioral and mental health problems.

Four state legislators visited the campus unannounced and outlined decrepit circumstances in several of the four campus houses. “It was far worse than I could have imagined,” said Omaha’s Sen. Sara Howard, chair of the Legislature Health and Human Services Committee. Alarming conditions were discovered at the facility, like something from a horror story. When lawmakers toured the campus they discovered girls confined to empty rooms with nothing to occupy them, rooms without working lights, doors without handles, and one girl was even sleeping on a bed frame without a mattress. At least one girl has found sharp metal inside the holes in the wall and cut herself. Some of the girls even claimed to have been locked in their rooms for up to five days at a time. Several of the rooms had water damage, causing mold and mildew, which can cause serious health risks.

In one building, the mechanism that opens doors when a fire occurs was damaged, meaning if a fire were to happen, the girls would be trapped in their rooms and the doors would have to be individually opened by staff members. Howard said that some of the teenagers used a broom and an electrical cord as weapons and proceeded to barricade themselves into a room with a phone. They called the child abuse hotline, local law enforcement, and their parents before staff were able to defuse the situation. “This is an awful scenario for a place, that five or six years agowas running like a top,” Sen. Howard said. “It’s like we just decided to stop making an investment in these kids.”

There were many shortages of staff in the facility, leaving employees to work very long hours. With such a lack of staff availability, there were very limited programming options and activities for the girls in the facility. In a facility meant to be focused on rehabilitation, programming is a necessity, as is a comfortable and safe environment. “I was frankly dumbfounded by the conditions,” said the inspector general of child welfare, Julie Rogers. “It is one thing to hear allegations of a deteriorated facility. But it’s another thing to see those conditions.”

Danette Smith, the CEO of DHHS, promises that they, in combination with the Administrative Services Department, are committed to restoring the facility and creating rehabilitation programming that works and is reliable. “Our goal is a smooth transition to help the girls acclimate to their routine, which includes school, mental health support, structured activities and recreation. We hope to enhance programming and treatment, and provide an environment that is safe, supportive, and gives youth the opportunity to thrive as they transition from the YRTCs into a successful adulthood.”

The girls have been moved into the YRTC facility for boys in Kearny, and will be secluded from them and will have separate programming times so that they do not interact with the young men.

This relocation ensures that the girls will receive the rehabilitation, care, and programming that they require, while in a safe and positive environment. The relocation will enable the Department of Administrative Services to evaluate the necessary repairs and upgrades to the buildings in the facility and refurbish them. Smith stressed that her biggest concern is ensuring that the facility will be a clean, healthy and safe environment for the girls.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States (46.6 million) suffer from a mental illness in a given year. In the jail population, this is even more prevalent, as these people are not receiving the care they need. There is an estimated 2 million mentally ill individuals being booked into jails each year. The jail population is five times more likely than the general population to experience a serious mental illness and eight times more likely to suffer from substance abuse. A staggering 68% of the jail population has a diagnosable substance abuse disorder, however many of them do not receive the proper treatment they require.

Jails are not conducive to treating these serious illnesses and addictions. Within two weeks after being released, those with serious substance abuse are 40 times more likely to die from an overdose than those in the general population. Instead of incarcerating these people struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders, public health options should be available for adequate treatment. Evidence-based substance abuse treatment and medical care has been proven to prevent criminal justice involvement at all. Access to essential treatment for substance abuse has been proven to reduce violent and financially motivated crimes.

Many reforms are being implemented by counties across the country to ensure that those with substance abuse disorders and mental health illnesses are provided proper care and preventative programs. Crisis intervention teams are programs that are designed to divert those with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system and into proper treatment. A group of police officers partake in special health training in order to properly evaluate the signs of a mental illness, treat the individual, and deescalate situations. This program is proving to be very effective in helping those with mental health disorders to receive treatment rather than jail time. Police mental health co-responder teams are also proving to be effective. Rather than the police being specifically trained, mental health professionals assist the police while they are interacting with someone showing signs of a mental health crisis.

There is also the option to establish mental health and drug courts that can serve as an alternative to incarceration. Multidisciplinary teams of judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, social workers, and professional mental health service providers work together in specialized courts to assist individuals in treatment and connect them with the proper services.

TRACKtech can provide individuals dealing with substance abuse and mental illness in a multitude of ways. There is an array of behavioral assessments available through the TRACKphoneLite app and the TRACKphone, and rehabilitative support can be specifically targeted to best suit the program member. The program member can also be assisted in finding local community support groups or rehabilitative services. By utilizing this automated rehabilitation platform, therapy expenses can be reduced by nearly 50%.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

With September being the dedicated month to recovery, people are raising awareness about recovery issues and the many hardships endured every minute of one’s recovery path. A national report was conducted about alcohol and substance abuse, as well as mental health issues. The data, according to the Behavioral Health Barometer United States, Volume 5, outlines the abuse of different substances and treatments in populations of any person over the age of 12, including youth and young adults.

National Recovery Month is a time for people to come together and support one another who have struggled with the same or similar addictions as they have. As addictions, abuse and mental health issues are more openly discussed, removing the stigma, people are more inclined to seek treatment. In 2017 in a single day, 1.4 million people in the U.S. were enrolled in a substance use treatment program. Of this 1.4 million seeking treatment, 37% had both a drug and alcohol addiction, 47.7% had a drug problem only and 15.6% only had an alcohol problem. It is difficult and time consuming for people to seek treatment, as it can be considered almost a defeat by the substance. Though, more people though are accepting that they are struggling with the abuse of a substance or mental issues and realize they need to seek treatment. People are more inclined to seek treatment and start their road to recovery if they feel supported and have better access to resources and programs.

TRACKtech. LLC is able to help those on probation or parole who are recovering from substance abuse or a mental health illness. The TRACKphone provides resources and programs to support recovering addicts and those struggling with a mental illness by keeping them in a more rehabilitative and supportive environment. It also eases the case workers job by monitoring the location of the program member and establishing boundaries to keep them on their path to recovery. As well, it provides supervisors with the ability to check-in remotely and video conference with the program member through biometric verification. TRACKtech was created to observe, predict, and influence by working together to support people’s roads to recovery and providing the guidance they need to do this.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

A recent article published by the Justice Center The Council of State Governments discusses the recently signed Assembly Bill 236 by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. It is a “Justice Reinvestment bill that aims to rebalance the use of criminal justice resources and invest in strategies that reduce recidivism, support law enforcement, and expand access to behavioral health services.” The legislation hopes the bill will “avert 63% of projected growth in prison populations over the next decade, saving taxpayers $543 million.” As prison populations continue to increase, many people who enter the Nevada prisons are convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug or property crimes. However, once in the prison system, there is a lack of appropriate behavioral health interventions. There is a significant gap in services for people who are struggling with substance addictions and/or mental illnesses. 

Rebalancing criminal justice resources is necessary and beneficial to an inmate’s health. This legislation is aiming to target interventions and services for people with behavioral health needs. TRACKtech, LLC is taking the approach of working to help inmates as they reenter society with their behavioral health needs by providing support and access to resources. These resources help to rehabilitate program members effectively and provide outlets for seeking help. Working with case managers, TRACKtech offers extensive support to help program members improve their behavioral health issues and mental illnesses. We encourage others to follow this lead as it is a significant problem the world population faces, in and out of the prison system. 

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Justice Reform

The National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) have announced the establishment of a Joint Task Force to reduce recurrence of prisoners through continuity of health care services. The NACo-NSA task force plans to convene at least twice this spring and summer. The National District Attorney’s Association (NDAA) has been asked to select a member from among its ranks to partake in the task force to provide a perspective for local prosecutors. Erie County Attorney John Flynn was chosen for the position. Having a prosecutor on the force will provide valuable insight into the need for increased access to services for veterans who frequently get into trouble with the criminal justice system due to post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or other disorders. The new task force has 28 members, uniting county officials, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, public defenders and behavioral health partners to develop a coordinated response to the dilemmas faced by those released from prison. Flynn is the task force’s only prosecutor. The Co-chairs are Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe and Sheriff Greg Champagne of Parish St. Charles, Louisiana.

Members of the new task force will explore the impact of existing federal policies on local prisoners’ recurrence and health outcomes. A focus will be placed on people with mental health, substance use disorders and/or other chronic health conditions. Flynn stated that “Under current law, those who can afford bail keep their health care while those unable to pay – who are most susceptible to illness – face a gap in coverage. Research shows gaps in coverage leads to higher rates of recidivism resulting in over-incarceration.” This impressive task force also welcomes assistance from other governmental, corporate, academic and philanthropic partners’ participation and contributions.

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