Michigan health department added 100 residential spots for youth in juvenile justice system - TAI News
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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has created new places for almost 100 kids in the juvenile justice system since March 1, the department announced.

The new placements, in addition to a bill package approved by the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate last month, will help address the need for more treatment options for youth in the system, MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a press release.

“MDHHS recognizes the need for reform so that juvenile justice youth can receive the treatment they need to realize their dreams,” Hertel said. “We have made great progress in providing additional placement options and will continue to work with the Legislature, counties and judges around the state, and advocates for youth to make Michigan’s juvenile justice system a national model for success.”

Unlike a detention center for juveniles who have been arrested on criminal offenses, residential placements provide young people who don’t pose a public safety risk with a less restrictive environment while they receive out-of-home treatment.

Rite of Passage in Macomb County created a new program to admit another 20 children and young adults to its secure treatment facility in November.

The new residential treatment program will feature single-occupancy rooms, an indoor gym, library classroom space, a kitchen and dining hall, outdoor basketball courts, green space and low ratios of youth to staff that are helpful for treatment, according to the MDHHS release. It will serve males ages 13-20 with a history of delinquent behavior who have mental health, substance use disorder, or behavioral needs.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has made a concerted effort to improve how the state handles and rehabilitates young offenders, with the creation of a juvenile justice reform task force in 2021 and a juvenile justice reform division housed in the Department of Health and Human Services this year.

Using data collection and interviews with community leaders and formerly incarcerated individuals, the task force approved recommendations to improve the juvenile justice system in July 2022. The recommendations helped shape the bill package. The MDHHS division has worked with out-of-state providers to aid in implementing treatment options for youth and hosted discussions in local communities to continue the reform effort.

The department began the search for additional bed space earlier this year as reports began circulating of overcrowded and unsafe conditions in juvenile treatment facilities, including an alleged sexual assault of a child at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility.

Since March, the department has also placed 12 kids at Highfields, Inc., in Ingham County, three at Holy Cross Children’s Services in Saginaw, two at Bethany Christian Services of Grand Rapids, 40 at Spectrum Human Services in Highland Park, and 20 at the Team Wellness Center in Detroit.

“I applaud MDHHS for its leadership in taking these steps in making more placement options available to Michigan youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system,” said Clinton County Probate Court and Family Division Judge Lisa Sullivan, according to the department’s press release. “Our young people and our communities are better off when youth have the treatment services they need to return home and have an opportunity to be successful.”

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