Something the majority of us already knew, but I'm very glad the problems are being recognized. From http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5766286.html May 8, 2008, 11:30PM Survey of youths in custody finds half have mental health problems Nearly 3,500 juveniles at the county detention center were tested By SARAH VIREN Nearly half of the youths locked up in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center suffer from mental health problems far more than the estimated 20 percent with mental disorders in the general youth population figures released Thursday show. These youngsters, mostly teenagers, have been diagnosed with maladies including bipolar and attention deficit disorders, according to data compiled by a group of organizations studying the issue. Nearly 20 percent have severe emotional problems, the data show, and a quarter had never been diagnosed previously. "For the first time ever we've collected amazing data that really give us the hard facts about what issues are there and what diagnosis we need to treat," said Betsy Schwartz, president of Mental Health America of Greater Houston. The nonprofit agency and the county juvenile probation department are coordinating Operation Redirect, a collaboration of local groups trying to prevent mentally ill kids from ending up behind bars. Researchers and juvenile justice workers have long noted a correlation between mental health issues and delinquency. In Harris County, however, juvenile offenders held in the detention center were not routinely psychologically evaluated until last year. "When I go out and speak or just have conversations with the general public, they just don't realize that there are that many kids," said Harvey Hetzel, head of the probation department. "It's high and people need to realize that." With the help of private foundation grants and public dollars, Operation Redirect spent the past year testing close to 3,500 juveniles in detention, or about 90 percent of those in lock-up awaiting a court hearing. That's up from 10 percent to 15 percent tested the previous year. Identified problems ranged from mood to psychotic disorders for kids arrested for crimes such as theft, drug possession and violence against a family member. Judge Mike Schneider, the newest member of the juvenile courts, said his cases frequently involve kids hampered by their mental issues. "One of the things we see is either kids who commit offenses or violate their probation when they make the decision on their own to stop taking the medication that they are supposed to take," he said. Of the youths with severe emotional disorders in juvenile detention, 22 percent had been physically abused and 12 percent were abused sexually, the new data show. More than half have experienced some form of traumatic loss. Schneider said the county has options for those with severe problems, but could use more. Operation Redirect members voted Thursday to fund a pilot program, used successfully in other cities including Dallas, which works with mentally ill kids and their families. About 20 percent of children and teens have mental disorders, according to a 2002 U.S. Surgeon General's report. But studies have long found much higher rates among those behind bars or in juvenile courts. The issue, ignored for many years, is beginning to get attention and funding. The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice formed in 2001. Operation Redirect began five years ago. Besides the detention center screenings, the group, together with other community organizations, has helped fund two new positions to work with mentally ill kids in and out of the court system. If the pilot program works, members hope to expand it to more youths in lock-up. "There is a shortage of services," Schwartz said. "(But) we are now in a position to really transform the system."