The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, February 11, 2001

Resources few for juveniles with mental problems
By Ron Martz

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 said.

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."
Barnes seeks budget boost to deal with emotionally disturbed young inmates

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 minority children.

In 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 disturbed.

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.


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