The organization Mental Health Matters is holding a series of panel presentations around the state to advocate for juvenile justice and community-based mental health care for youth.
Yesterday’s forum, the second of six, was held at the University of Charleston and included panelists from mental health, education and legal backgrounds. During the forum, panelists discussed West Virginia’s lack of funds for mental and behavioral health intervention, a lack of coordination of services and the statewide deficit of therapists and counselors.
Panelists called on legislators to aggressively fund existing mental health services – especially in schools – citing West Virginia’s high youth confinement rate as an example of the state’s failure to help those in need. Over the last 16 years, youth confinement has declined in almost every state except West Virginia, where the confinement rate has grown by almost 50 percent, according to a Mental Health Matters press release. West Virginia has the second highest youth incarceration rate in the nation.
In an infographic, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy pointed out that effective community-based programs cost the state about $80 per day per youth compared to $328 per day per youth in a Division of juvenile service facility.
Future forums on youth mental health and incarceration will be hosted throughout the month of October in Wheeling, Morgantown, Martinsburg and Beckley.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.