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Carter Center Hosts Forum on Mental Health Care of Children in Georgia's Juvenile Justice System

ATLANTA, GA....More than 65 percent of children in Georgia's juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental disorder, and adequate treatment services for them are sorely lacking. This is one of the topics to be addressed at The Carter Center May 17 at the 2001 Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum Georgia at the Crossroads: Children in the Juvenile Justice, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Systems.

The forum, which brings together some 300 mental health care and juvenile justice professionals, policymakers, and consumers, will review model programs in Georgia communities, how to help children and their parents successfully navigate mental health care systems, and what can be done to improve children's mental health services in Georgia.

"Georgia's juvenile justice system sees a 70 percent recidivism rate," said Dr. Gregory Fricchione, director of the Center's Mental Health Program. "The issues of this conference are vital to everyone as many of these children are clearly not receiving the treatment they need out in the community. Treatment options need to be available to them. We will focus on successful programs and address what still needs to be done. "

Commissioner Orlando Martinez of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice will give the keynote speech. Commissioner Martinez has said that Georgia's juvenile justice system is forced to develop a mental health system by default whereas providing mental health care for children in their communities would be more cost-effective.

Georgia has a problematic history of addressing children's mental health care needs within its justice system. In 1987, Georgia developed a four-year plan to provide mental health services to children. But to this day, the plan has been funded only at 50 percent of the 1987 figures. Estimates on funding to fully implement the plan run as high as $50 million. In a scathing 1998 report by the U.S. Department of Justice, Georgia's juvenile detention facilities were found to be unconstitutional and dangerous, including failing to provide adequate mental health care to mentally ill youths and using mechanical and chemical restraints on mentally ill youths.

The forum is sponsored by The Carter Center Mental Health Program, the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Georgia Parent Support Network, Inc., NAMI-Georgia, and the National Mental Health Association of Georgia.

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