Juvenile Mental Health Court – Improved Outcomes Within Justice System

Alameda Collaborative Juvenile Court pic

Alameda Collaborative Juvenile Court
Image: bhcs.co.alameda.ca.us

A former Berkeley law practitioner with experience in juvenile trials and appeals, Paul Seeman served as Alameda County Superior Court judge. Selected California Juvenile Court Judge of the Year in 2009, Paul Seeman handled a wide range of cases and launched the Alameda County’s Collaborative Mental Health Court.

Modeled after problem-solving drug courts, juvenile mental health courts (JMHCs) address a situation in which as many as 70 percent of youth within juvenile detention centers nationwide are diagnosed with a mental illness. Unfortunately, detention facilities do not provide therapeutic environments for these young people suffering from psychological disorders.

JMHCs offer a uniquely collaborative approach in providing youths with ways of gaining access to community-based mental health services. This contrasts with an adversarial juvenile court process that typically results in detention. The exact treatment pathway is decided with input from the prosecutor, juvenile court representatives, the public defender, and mental health liaisons. Key challenges involve providing levels of service, within tight municipal budgets, that enable youth to successfully undergo treatment and rehabilitation, and return to productive lives in their community and school settings.

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