New state committee aims to help find places for kids who need help
Juveniles can sometimes be lodged in emergency rooms for weeks awaiting placement in a dedicated mental health facility.
A new committee dedicated to fixing a statewide crisis was announced today by the governor’s office.
The Michigan Juvenile Residential Facilities Advisory Committee will be tasked with finding solutions to increase juvenile access to behavioral health beds, and ensure kids in Michigan’s juvenile justice system have the resources and opportunities to succeed.
“Michigan must continue to lead on juvenile justice and ensure every kid in Michigan can reach their full potential,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “The Juvenile Residential Facilities Advisory Committee will build on the recommendations of the Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force and take a comprehensive look at residence standards, staff training, case management, and data collection to address the challenges kids in our residential system face.”
When children enter the juvenile justice system, it can be extremely difficult for local probate and family court administrators to get the children the help they need.
A shortage of both facilities and the staff to run them has persisted since before the pandemic.
An investigation by the Record-Eagle and Interlochen Public Radio found these issues were especially common in Northern Michigan. Juveniles can sometimes be lodged in emergency rooms for weeks awaiting placement in a dedicated mental health facility.
If they are admitted, those facilities are often located hours away from their families.
The crisis comes at a time when more kids than ever are struggling with mental illness across the country. 20% live with a diagnosable mental illness and 10% are experiencing a significant impairment, according to a 2021 report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.
Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center Chief Executive Officer Ginger Kadlec said that she is excited about the new group, and has heard about these issues from local law enforcement.
“There is a definite need for juvenile residential facilities,” she said. “Both from if they’re involved in a criminal allegation, as well as for mental health beds.
Members of the Michigan Probate Judges Association put forth a resolution in July deeming the lack of placement options a crisis and calling on the state for immediate action.
The formation of the residential facilities committee also follows a recommendation by the Michigan Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force - initially formed in June 2021.
The task force released its findings and recommendations earlier this summer. It identified ten dangerous gaps in the system including a lack of strong policy, data collection and funding incentives that could keep kids from entering the court system.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist chaired the task force. He called news of this committee's formation a "step forward" in addressing the juvenile justice system's issues.
The Juvenile Residential Facilities Advisory Committee will serve as an advisory body within MDHHS and its leadership.
The committee will also include representatives from the juvenile justice community and residential facilities, prosecutors, defense attorneys, family court administrators, probate or circuit court judges, local governments, tribal governments, mental health advocates, behavioral specialists, and individuals with lived experience in the juvenile justice residential system
The committee will review licensing, staff training, length-of-stay, and case management standards and make recommendations to standardize guidelines and improve procedures throughout the state.
Read “Kids in Crisis” — a three-part special report by the Traverse City Record-Eagle and Interlochen Public Radio — for a deep dive into how this issue is affecting youth in Northern Michigan and what other initiatives are being done to fix it.