Call to Order and Roll Call
The2nd meeting of the Task Force on the Unified Juvenile Code was held on Thursday, August 23, 2012, at 1:00 PM, in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Katie Stine, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Senator Stine reviewed the focus of the Task Force and announced that the Task Force will be divided into three working groups with separate tasks and goals. Staff will be available to help with these work groups. The work groups should meet in September and October and report back to the full Task Force in November with their recommendations.
Approval of Minutes
There was a motion by Judge Berry, seconded by Representative Tilley, and approved by voice vote to adopt the minutes of the July 31, 2012 meeting.
Day Treatment, a community resource
Keith D. Wells, Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and the Superintendant of the Owensboro Day Treatment Program, gave an overview of the Owensboro Day Treatment Program. He said that day treatment is a highly structured program for at-risk youth. Instead of being removed from their families, these youth spent 7 hours each weekday in day treatment, then returned home in the afternoon. Since the youth return home every afternoon, day treatments are more cost-effective than residential placements. The Owensboro program has capacity for 36 youth, and is 1 of 6 DJJ state-operated day treatments. Those eligible to attend the program are males or females 12-17 years old, in grades 7th-12th, who are public or status offenders. Referrals for the program come from a variety of sources including referrals from court designated workers (CDW), the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the Department of Community Based Services (DCBS), District Court Judges, other DJJ facilities, private child care, and school systems through the CDW office. Day treatment services include education, recreation, individual, group, and family counseling, workplace readiness, community volunteer work, and substance abuse counseling and education. Each youth in day treatment works with the counselor to design an individual treatment plan outlining the goals and expectation of the youth while in the program. Since many of the youth do not thrive in the public school setting, the program reinforces the educational aspect with counseling. Day treatment also collaborates with other agencies to allow for smooth transition back in the public school setting.
Mr. Wells brought Brennan Calhoun with him. Brennan successfully completed the Owensboro Day Treatment Program. He stated that he was in the program for a year and a half. While he was in the program, he had counseling with peers and family and was given the tools needed for when he returned home. Staff was always there for him and never gave up on him. He liked the consistency of day treatment and said it was a good support system that he needed. Without day treatment, he would have been placed away from his family.
In response to a question by Senator Stine, Mr. Wells said he has been with the Owensboro Day Treatment Program for 4 years, but it was started in 1978 and moved to its current location in 1987. Mr. Wells did not have the daily cost report with him, but said he would get that information to the committee.
In response to questions by Ms. Priddy, Mr. Wells said that the youth referred to the program are status or public defenders, and that the therapy they receive is all-inclusive. The program does not bill out for therapy. To transition out, the youth go through 4 phases in a 6 month period, which includes a 3 week transition back to the public school setting. All day treatments programs in Kentucky operate similarly.
In response to a question by Superintendant Trimble, Mr. Wells said there are 6 DJJ state-run day treatment programs in Kentucky. Commissioner Davis added that there are twenty contracted day treatment facilities.
Superintendant Trimble said that it would be good to know the data of the number of youth that start day treatment compared to the number that successfully finish the programs.
In response to a question by Mr. Schuler, Mr. Wells said the Owensboro program uses Daviess County teachers. The program collaborates with the Director of Pupil Personnel to decide what placement is best for the youth after they finish treatment.
In response to a question by Mr. Schuler, Mr. Wells said the County Attorney does not have to sign off and that it is all taken care of by the CDW. The reason the age range is 12-17 is because that is the age that DJJ deemed is appropriate for day treatment. Those ages work well in the same classroom setting.
In response to a question by Justice Noble, Mr. Wells said that the youth are identified by a variety of sources, and some of the children who are DCBS children receive Cabinet services as well. Treatment is provided by all private treatment providers.
In response to a question by Justice Noble, Commissioner James said that DCBS gets involved if the children are committed, but many in-home cases go to day treatment, and DCBS secures services for out-of-home care.
Youth Development and Treatment
Dr. Bill Heffron, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky, and Chief of Mental Health Services/Acting Medical Director at the Department of Juvenile Justice gave an overview of the brain changes in children as they develop into adolescence and then adulthood. Different parts of the brain go through different processes at different rates, and the most concern is on the frontal lobes that finish by age 25. Adolescents see the benefits of an action initially instead of the harm of the action. They make decisions on the basis of emotion of the moment and are more influenced by their peers. Treatment approaches include a risk/needs assessment, enhancing strengths, work on minimizing liabilities, and involving the family. What works for families includes multisystemic therapy, which is sometimes difficult; family functional therapy, which does not have as much turmoil; and parent training. Youth need to be taught social competency skills and thinking skills, and need risk-focused treatments. Things that do not work include boot camps and wilderness programs, which have seen worse results; mixing low risk and high risk youth; and excessive supervision of low risk youth.
In response to a question by Representative Tilley, Dr. Heffron said the recidivism rates are identified differently by different states. Commissioner Davis said that Kentucky DJJ looks at the rate of children that commit other crimes after treatment.
Representative Tilley noted that the most effective tool would be for the youth to complete school. Dr. Heffron agreed and noted that the youth need to be doing something valuable for themselves.
In response to a question by Mr. Schuler, Dr. Heffron said that studies have shown that juveniles who go to adult jails do worse when they are released, and decisions on where to send juveniles should be made very carefully.
Adolescent Kentucky Treatment Outcome Study
Jenifer Cole, Ph.D., MSW, Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky Center on Drug & Alcohol Research in the Department of Behavioral Science presented an overview of the Adolescent Kentucky Treatment Outcome Study. She said that approximately 11.7 percent of adolescents in Kentucky used an illicit drug, and 18.1 percent used alcohol in the past month. There was an estimate of 85,000 individuals (17 and under) who needed substance abuse treatment in 2009, while there was an unduplicated count of only 786 who received alcohol and other drug use state-funded services in fiscal year 2010. There is a heightened vulnerability to substance use during adolescence, which has long-term effects on neurological and psychological development. Mental health and substance abuse treatment were viewed by juvenile justice professional as two of the most effective policies for six outcome areas. The purpose of the Adolescent Kentucky Treatment Outcomes Study was to measure behavioral change for youth who participate in Kentucky’s publicly funded substance abuse treatment programs. Information was collected for youth ages 12-17 who receive state-funded treatment and have a primary or secondary diagnosis of substance use disorder. The majority of the study clients were white males ages 14-16, and most were living with a parent or guardian. The majority were referred to treatment by the Justice system. Most were from a public or private school with a 2.0 GPA. The majority reported mental health issues within the past year. Most of the youth reported good satisfaction with their treatment and a significant decrease in substance abuse, although incarceration rates for boys and girls did not really change, and arrest rates for boys did not change much either. There was a rise in GPAs of both male and female youth, and the number of self-reported behavioral health problems decreased. Substance abuse treatment for adolescents is expensive, but she noted that providing treatment to adolescents reduces costs to society, even when not considering longer-term costs of substance use such as decreases in human capital.
In response to a question by Mr. Schuler, Dr. Cole said that different treatments are used for kids and adults, and that adolescents do not usually show as significant improvement as adults, but that does not mean the treatment is not working. It is a chronic disease and treatment takes time.
In response to a question by Ms. Priddy, Dr. Cole said that she has not been involved with any studies on barriers to treatment. The Department for Behavioral Health is involved in trying to figure it out and knows it is a huge issue.
In response to a question by Ms. Priddy, Dr. Cole agreed that most youth in the court system are on the fast track for treatment. Representative Tilley noted that funding is the issue.
“Under 10” Development and Best Practices
Patrick Yewell, Executive Officer for Family and Juvenile Services at the Administrative Office of the Courts, and Ed Monahan of the Department for Public Advocacy presented information on the “Under 10” development and best practices. Mr. Yewell said over the last 6 years approximately 2704 children ages 10 and under in Kentucky have been charged with a public or status offense. There was a spike in complaints filed in 2010, of 523. The number one charge is a beyond control status offense. Mr. Yewell approached the State Interagency Council (SIAC) a year ago and requested that it establish a workgroup to further examine the issue of charges filed against young children. Preliminary recommendations include the use of multidisciplinary teams to address the underlying issues that are causing referral to the criminal justice system subsequently preventing entry into the courts. The Council’s major concerns were that filing a complaint on children in this age group is evidence of a lack of more appropriate resources; children in this age range are unable to fully comprehend the consequences of pleading guilty; and children at this age with high risk behaviors are best served by social services agencies, and not the criminal justice system. He said that 16 states have a minimum age for juvenile court jurisdiction in delinquency matters, while Kentucky does not.
Mr. Monahan read the position statement of the State Interagency Council in its entirety. He reiterated that it is SIAC’s belief that children age 10 and younger should not be charged or prosecuted as public or status offenders. Children at this age are best served by community resources that comprehensively address the underlying reasons for their behavior and prevent future entry into the criminal justice system.
In response to a question by Justice Noble, Mr. Monahan said there is more focus on the reasons for behavior. Detention is used at a lower rate, which provides better outcomes.
In response to a question by Justice Noble, Mr. Monahan said there is a proposal to allow for discretion in the system. It is better to put efforts on underlying reasons that caused behaviors. Chances are higher when they come out, over just using detention. There is a moral side to the law as to what is fair, and the public wants tax dollars used wisely.
In response to a question by Mr. Schuler, Commissioner James said that $500,000 was spent last year to evaluate families and children for competency. One evaluation can cost between $2,500 and $5,000. The evaluations are costly but needed.
In response to a question by Judge Jones, Mr. Monahan said that the role of the public defender should be addressed through social services instead of criminal services. There should be a counseling function where the client determines the outcome.
In response to a question by Judge Jones, Commissioner James said she believes her department should serve those children, but there are budget struggles and heavy workloads to overcome before additional youth can be served.
Juvenile Code Reforms
Public Advocate Damon Preston discussed juvenile code reforms. Accompanying Mr. Preston were Susie Bookser, public defender from Northern Kentucky, and Kelly Ridings, public defender from London, Kentucky, who gave insight into specific court cases they have worked on. Mr. Preston reported that in fiscal year 2012 public defenders were assigned more than 22,000 juvenile cases. He presented the following recommendations: stop designating children as status offenders. They should instead be designated as a child in need of services; no prosecution of a child under age 10; detention of a child is the last resort; increase opportunities for diversion; define the role of school resource officers; enhance protections for children and parents of children who are questioned; and expand judicial discretion to allow case-specific and child-specific outcomes.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:32 p.m.