Our Role

For more than three decades, Commonweal Juvenile Justice Program has worked with policymakers and service professionals to promote access to mental health services for at-risk and system-involved youth. Highlights of our work include:

Legislative reform: Commonweal drafted legislation for Senate President and former Assembly member Darrell Steinberg in 2004 to create a special delinquency court disposition track for children with mental health disorders. The reform, eventually adopted as SB 570 in 2005, provides for court-ordered clinical evaluations and referrals to a multi-disciplinary team to recommend a sentencing plan.

Mental health courts: Commonweal’s Dr. David Arredondo, a specialist in adolescent psychiatry, helped create the Youth Mental Health Court in Santa Clara County’s juvenile justice system. The court specializes in the evaluation of cases involving children with severe mental health disorders.

Healthy Returns Initiative: Commonweal staffed an advisory group of experts and professionals to help guide this five-county initiative that established collaborative service models for probation youth with mental health treatment needs.

Positive Youth Justice Initiative: Under a grant from Sierra Health Foundation, Commonweal facilitates an advisory board of national experts and professionals exploring ways to improve outcomes for “crossover youth.” Crossover youth have histories in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, with high prevalence of mental health problems.

Mental Health Services Act: Commonweal has worked closely with advocates and county leaders to modify MHSA spending guidelines to ensure that juvenile justice clients are eligible for funding of services under the initiative.

CA Division of Juvenile Justice: Commonweal supported multiple proposals to improve programs and outcomes for mentally disordered and sex offenders committed to the state youth corrections system (Division of Juvenile Justice). In the wake of litigation and realignment, DJJ has implemented court-approved remedial plans for upgraded mental health and sex offender treatment programs.

Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction (MIOCR) grants: These critical California funds serving juvenile offenders with mental health problems were suspended in 2007. In 2014, we worked with Senate President Darrell Steinberg in a successful effort to restore MIOCR grant funds at a level of $18 million for FY 14-15 with half earmaked for the juvenile justice population.