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Youth Violence as a Public Health Problem

posted Jul 29, 2010, 5:03 PM by DC Behavioral Health Association   [ updated Jul 29, 2010, 5:12 PM ]

The D.C. Behavioral Health Association releases a factsheet, "The Value of a Public Health Approach to Youth Violence."  


A public health approach to youth violence seeks to treat the underlying cause of delinquency or violence by addressing the child’s and family’s behavioral health needs.  This approach has been labeled a “farce” by local columnists, and a failure by local politicians.  It is not.  In fact, it is a well-studied approach that, compared to detention, can reduce recidivism from 70% to 20% at less cost to taxpayers.  Thus, a public health approach to youth violence costs less and achieves better results than traditional detention.


Sadly, hundreds of D.C. residents with unmet mental health needs end up in state custody.  Approximately 412 adults with mental illness revolve through the District’s jails.  At least 300 children enter the city’s foster care system due to unaddressed behavior problems.  The city’s efforts to effectively treat and de-institutionalize these individuals are non-controversial.  The city’s extension of these efforts to its juvenile justice system is likewise scientifically sound, and a worthy investment of taxpayer dollars.