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Franklin County Finds Success From Juvenile Court Diversion Program

Franklin County Courthouse
Adora Namigadde

Franklin County’s juvenile court is holding a public event Thursday at 2 p.m. to talk about the effectiveness of a program aimed at helping youth with substance abuse or mental health issues.

The Behavioral Health and Juvenile Justice program aims to divert young people dealing with mental health issues into community based treatment instead of jail.

Judge Elizabeth Gill, lead juvenile judge in Franklin County, says there’s a lot at stake for the participants.

“If the issues that have caused them to be part of the juvenile justice system have not been successfully addressed, they are going to return to the community with all of the same issues and absolutely no support systems in place,” she says.

But the program is also a matter of cost.

“If we do not successfully identify and address these kinds of issues within the community and these youths end up in residential treatment and or juvenile jail, it can cost upwards to the average stay about $190,000,” Gill says.

Franklin County’s diversion program, on the other hand, costs about $10,000.

“What science has taught us is that most of the youth that come into our system have experienced significant traumatic events and that these traumatic events whether they have caused mental health issues substance abuse issues or other types of issues are most often best treated in the community setting,” she says.

Data collected over the last 12 years shows that the majority of young people in the program are in contact with the police less afterwards, and self-report a decline in substance use issues. The program will continue collecting data, and Columbus plans to evaluate the efficacy of the program every two years.