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Racial and Ethnic Differences in Youth's Mental Health and Substance Needs and Services: Findings from the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement (SYRP)

Award Information

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Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)
Original Solicitation

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $39,648)

Mental health and substance use disorders are serious issues for many justice-involved youth and are critical to address because they are often catalysts for offending behavior. Despite this, the majority of youth in juvenile facilities have untreated mental health/substance abuse needs which can be exaggerated when released to the community (Telpin, et al., 2013). The lack of screening and treatment is problematic for all affected youth, but current research suggests minorities are disproportionately impacted at all stages of the justice system (Primm et al., 2005). Existing research has only examined three general race/ethnic categories (e.g., non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics) and lacks the specificity needed to understand other group differences in needs and services because of small sample sizes. The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate racial/ethnic differences in youth’s mental health and substance abuse needs and services beyond the three most frequently studied racial/ethnic categories (e.g., non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics).

The goals of the study are to determine: (1) if differences in mental health and substance abuse needs and services exist in a racially/ethnically diverse nationally representative sample of youth in custody, and (2) the extent to which there are racial/ethnic disparities in the delivery of services in relation to need. To address these goals, we will conduct a series of analyses using data from 7073 youth in custody who participated in the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement (SRYP). We plan to use a multifaceted analysis strategy that includes bivariate, logistic regression, hierarchical generalized linear modeling (HGLM). Modeling techniques will adjust for other youth characteristics (e.g., age, sex, and offense leading to current placement) and variability across facilities (e.g., program type, screening practices, and staff qualifications) which may also explain disparities in needs and services.

The findings from this study have implications for re-entry planning and services; provide additional information contributing to better screening and treatment; and address a significant gap in the literature regarding less-studied minority populations in the juvenile justice system. We plan to disseminate findings to both research and practitioner audiences by submitting to a peer-reviewed scientific journal, preparing an OJJDP bulletin, and presenting at the American Society of Criminology conference. All data files containing derived variables and all SAS programming code that generated the study findings will be submitted and archived in accordance with the NACJD guidelines.

This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 24, 2015