State Awarded Grant to Implement Mental Health Screenings in 10 Juvenile Courts

Friday, November 13, 2009 | 08:20am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, in partnership with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, has been awarded $196,742 for a Mental Health Criminal Justice Collaboration Grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. 

The grant will be used to implement the Tennessee Integrated Court Screening and Referral Project, an evidence-based intervention pilot project to address the mental health and substance abuse needs of children and youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system in Tennessee. 

The project aims to serve approximately 6,000 children and youth with non-violent charges in 10 Tennessee county juvenile courts. The grant funding will offer a special emphasis on rural jurisdictions and with female clients. The intervention will train youth service officers to complete a standardized screening of children and youth for mental health needs prior to the Mandatory Detention Hearing. It will also aid in the referral and follow-up of identified children and youth to community-based services as appropriate through Department of Children’s Services Court Liaisons and Family Support Specialists. 

“We are very excited about the potential of this pilot project to increase access to mental health and substance abuse services for this at-risk population,” said TDMHDD Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts. “By encouraging early intervention and providing juvenile courts with child- and family-focused mental health and substance use information, it is our hope that we will reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders while improving their health status.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, and we commend them for their leadership on this program,” said Libby Sykes, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. “The data collected through this program will help judges make more informed decisions, while also diverting children with mental health issues from juvenile courts and into community-based programs when appropriate.”

The department will also be working with the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, the Council on Children’s Mental Health, the Vanderbilt University Center for Excellence, and Tennessee Voices for Children to fully implement this program. 

The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice. For more information about the Bureau of Justice Assistance, please visit

For more information about the Tennessee Integrated Court Screening and Referral Project or mental health and substance use disorders please contact TDMHDD’s Office of Communications at (615) 253-4812 or visit


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