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Screening and Assessing the Mental Health and Substance Use Needs of African-American Youth

NCJ Number
Juvenile Correction Mental Health Report Volume: 2 Issue: 4 Dated: May/June 2002 Pages: 49-50,56-61,62
Lee A. Underwood
Fred Cohen
Date Published
9 pages
This article discusses the challenges of providing accurate treatment screening to juvenile delinquents with co-occurring disorders and makes suggestions relative to appropriate screening instrument selection.
The author believes that the assessment tools utilized by juvenile justice agencies to screen African-American offenders for co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues have led to unreliable screening of that population. The author refers to prior research on this subject, notably Isaacs, 1992 and Rubin, 2001. A basic overview of the disproportionate representation of minority youths in the juvenile justice system and the implications of the co-occurrence of mental health and substance abuse needs is included. In general, co-occurrence of issues is linked to increased impulsiveness. In order to achieve cultural competency in screening practices, the authors recommend the use of a battery of screening instruments with the selection of instruments influenced by five factors: reason for referral, the areas to be screened, the instrument’s pyschometric properties, cost effectiveness, and the subject’s gender. Signs and symptoms of co-occurring disorders, mental illness, and substance abuse are listed. Report guidelines are presented. The author makes recommendations of specific instruments best used for testing for specific co-occurring disorders in diverse populations. Instruments reviewed include the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Adolescents, the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale, Suicide Probability Scale, Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children, and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence. 3 tables, 27 references