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State grants to focus on at-home care for rural kids

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who chairs the task force presents the recommendations that aim to reduce the number of kids going through the juvenile justice system.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who chairs the task force presents recommendations that aim to reduce the number of kids going through the juvenile justice system.

Experts say rehabilitation is best done at home rather than a facility for youth in the juvenile justice system.

To help with that, the state health department is bringing back a grant program that supports at-home care in rural communities.

Eligible applicants include nonprofits, private and public agencies, Native American tribes and universities - specifically in communities with 75,000 people or less. The funding would support various types of at-home therapy services.

“Why it's more effective is that you're actually helping the family and the youth in real time with some of the adversities that they face: bullying in school, peer pressure, taking drugs, things of that nature,” said Derrick McCree, Director of Juvenile Justice Programs at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Mcree said this initiative was one of many recommendations outlined by the governor-appointed Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform last year.

Juveniles who are ordered by a court to seek residential care have an especially difficult time finding an available bed for treatment – especially if they have a violent record.

An investigation by the Record-Eagle and Interlochen Public Radio found these issues were especially common in Northern Michigan where in-patient beds are a rare commodity. This can mainly be attributed to state-wide shortages in beds and staff.

McCree said the grants are a single step in overhauling Michigan’s juvenile justice system.

“If (children) are removed from their home and displaced several hours away in one of the facilities…it’s a hardship,” he said. “So we want to reduce that. And I think that we have a great plan in place from the recommendations and the task force to address those issues.”

Most recently, MDHHS restructured its contracts with residential care facilities by financing a given number of in-patient beds rather than basing it off of the number of patients. Those beds would be specifically dedicated to children in the foster care or juvenile justice system.

Also included in the recommendations from the task force were initiatives to improve data collection, establishing protocols for local courts and barring out-of-state detention unless in emergency circumstances.

McCree said the grant program was previously offered in 2015 and included recipients in Grand Traverse, Manistee, and Leelanau counties.

This time, about $500,000 is up for grabs.

Grant applications must be submitted electronically by 3 p.m., March 10. The program period begins May 1 and ends Sept. 30.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.