Wards at Sacramento’s juvenile hall need better mental-health treatment options

Sacramento’s juvenile hall should be a place for under-18 Sacramentans who’ve been arrested for a crime. It should not be a destination for young kids with mental illness.

In last month’s SN&R, staff writer Raheem F. Hosseini shared the stories of many young kids, a lot of them just entering their teenage years, who receive mental-health care at a juvenile hall ill-equipped to serve their needs. A lot of these kids come from abusive homes, some already have substance-abuse issues.

As Hosseini reported, “nearly 43 percent of the average daily juvenile hall population received mental health services this year.” That’s nearly a 20-percent jump over 2000’s numbers. Almost a-third of wards at Sacramento County’s juvenile hall were on psychotropic medication last year, too, according to his report.

As Hosseini also noted, local law-enforcement officials, who aren’t trained to care for these kids, do their best to deal with their many needs. They’re the first to admit that juvenile hall is not the place to treat mental-health issues.

There simply must be other options for these young kids. We need a place for them to receive professional help so they can remedy what in many cases are traumatizing, challenging issues.

SN&R hopes the board of supervisors takes up this issue immediately in the new year. Juvenile hall is not a doctor’s office. Let’s help these kids, not make them criminals.