Culturally Competent Treatment Programs

This session was presented by Lisa Boesky, Ph.D. of University of Washington Children’s Hospital; and Michael Lindsey, Ph.D. of Nestor Consultants, Inc. The session addressed minority youth with mental health issues/risk factors for mental illness; minority youth with mental health issues in the juvenile justice system; barriers minority youth and their families encounter when trying to utilize mental health services; limitations of the mental health system for minority youth/minority juvenile offenders; and how to overcome barriers and provide culturally competent mental health services to minority youth/minority juvenile offenders. Case examples of culturally competent treatment for minority juvenile offenders and their families were presented.

Although minority youth are over-represented in the juvenile justice system, they are under-represented in the mental health system. Many minority youth have co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, in addition to their criminal behavior. In order to provide comprehensive and effective treatment to these juvenile offenders, service providers need to

  address all three issues. Although there does not appear to be a difference in the amount, type, or degree of psychiatric disorders among minority youth when compared to Caucasian youth, there is a significant difference in patterns of utilization when it comes to mental health services. There is evidence that minority youth are often under diagnosed and/or mis-diagnosed (e.g., minority youth are more likely to receive diagnoses of conduct disorder). Minority youth are referred less often for mental health services, have a higher rate of "no shows" and/or terminating the counseling relationship early,   and have less successful outcomes as defined by most mental health programs.

Participants were concerned about the increase of mentally ill minority youth in the juvenile justice system and the system not always having the resources to respond, as well as an overall lack of mental health training for front line workers. As a whole, Arizona appears to have more treatment agencies for children and adolescents (including juvenile offenders) than many other states across the country. Arizona seems to value treatment of

Photograph of David Doi of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and Arziona Juvenile Justice Specialist Brian Fox discussing state and federal legislation
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