Georgia's effort to help its troubled youngsters has had
its own share of troubles.
Lack of mental health resources was one of the major problems
U.S. Department of Justice officials found three years
ago at the end of a 12-month investigation of Georgia's
troubled juvenile justice system.
A wording to Cynthia Wainscott, executive director of
the National Mental Health Association of Georgia, studies
have shown about 65 percent of the youngsters who come
in contact with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice
have mental health problems that often are not addressed.
"Because Georgia has not made the investment in community
services for children, judges often do not have an appropriate
place to put them. Their hands are tied," Wainscott
Last month, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher released
a report that found "growing numbers of children
who are suffering needlessly because their emotional,
behavioral, and development needs are not being met by
those very institutions which were explicitly created
to take care of them."
seeks budget boost to deal with emotionally disturbed
The report went on to say, "Too often, children who
are not identified as having mental health problems and
who do not receive services end up in the juvenile justice
system," with the disproportionate number poor and
1987, Georgia developed a four year, $50 million plan
to provide an array of services to severely emotionally
disturbed children. But, Wainscott said only 50 percent
of the plan has been funded, half the state hospital beds
that serve these children have been eliminated and there
are 43S,000 more children in the state than 13 years ago.
Gov. Roy Barnes is asking the General Assembly to approve
$5 million in next year's budget for 134 additional beds
in a program for youngsters who are severely emotionally
According to Normer Adams, executive director of the
Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children,
there are about 650 beds in the program, but they are
expensive to provide, averaging about $220 a day. "It's
not that these resources are not available, it's that
we're not willing to pay for them, "said Adams.