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State Providing Funds to Connect At-Risk Teens With Mental Health Services

The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services announced Tuesday that it has received over $100,000 in grant funding to connect at-risk kids and young adults in Baltimore City to Multisystemic Therapy diversion services.

The $130,000 in funding was given by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services to support the agency’s partnership with the University of Maryland School of Social Work’s Institute for Innovation and Implementation aimed at connecting youth offenders aged 12 to 20 with mental health and family support services.

“The Department is excited to bring proven evidence-based therapy programs to Baltimore City,” said Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed in a statement. “These programs will not only help divert youth from entering the juvenile system, but also provide us with one more tool to reduce the racial disparities we face.”

The money will be used as initial funding for the Institute for Innovation and Implementation to choose and train a therapy provider to administer programs to juvenile offenders during their intake and reentry processes or in lieu of commitment.

Multisystemic Therapy is a trauma-responsive approach that addresses behavior change through the lens of mental health services, school and work intervention and family participation, among other avenues.

Therapists will be available to families 24 hours a day to arm them with necessary skills to cope with negative influences in juvenile offenders’ communities, improve their interpersonal relationships and school performance and build a peer support network to maintain positive behavior change.

The Institute for Innovation and Implementation and the Department of Juvenile Services hope to have the program running by next summer.

Multisystemic Therapy is targeted at youthful offenders aged 12 to 17. The Department of Juvenile Services is adapting these services to aid emerging adults aged 18 through 20, as well.

According to a news release, Multisystemic Therapy for Emerging Adults has been found to reduce recidivism rates, give workforce and educational support and provide mental health and substance abuse treatment.

These older teens are treated for about six months and given a life coach as they transition to adulthood.

The deployment of these programs intends to address racial disparities in Baltimore’s juvenile justice system by offering alternatives to removing Black and Brown children from their homes and reducing the number of commitments to the Department of Juvenile Services.

“We are thrilled to support the implementation of high-quality, community-based programs that meet the needs of youth and families in Baltimore City,” said Michelle Zabel, director of the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work’s Institute for Innovation and Implementation, in a statement. “Through partnership with DJS, these proven interventions lay the groundwork for long-term success of youth and families. As with all our work, it is important that these efforts address systematic inequalities and racial disparities in our city.”

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