Program implemented to prevent repeat offending juveniles

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Studies have proven that many repeat offenders have some type of mental illness. Here in Craighead County, a government funded program is helping those offenders get back on the right track.

"Project Second Chance" started up last March and the success already has those involved branching out the younger generation.

"Every time they're in jail it's forty dollars a day that they usually can not pay.  So, that's on the tax payers. Then, every time they go to court there's court cost that they normally can't pay," said Elise Tanner with Midsouth Health Systems, who is the Coordinator of Project Second Chance.

It's a scenario, that for some, happens over and over again. Tanner says surveys have shown roughly 65% of those in jail have some type of metal condition. The program is designed to help those individuals get the help they need. For six month to a year, the intensive program provides consistent drug screenings, one-on-one and group therapy. Tanner says the success has already shown through.

"One gentleman was very young, but he had been incarcerated 17 times in three years. He's been in our program for 4 months now. He's been compliant with the program. Drug screens have been negative. He's done everything we're asked him to do. It's amazing,"

And now, after a recent 38-thousand dollar planning grant, Marilyn Copeland, with Action for Kids, wants to mirror that program.

"After seeing the success of what's been happening with the Adult Mental Health Grant, we wanted to see if we could change this and adapt it for the juveniles in our county," said Copeland, who says the need is there.

"Out of the juvenile justice population approximately 60 to 70 percent of the kids that go through the Craighead County Juvenile Detention Court, which in 2009 was 850 cases, over 600 of them had a mental health diagnosis."

And already, there has been a ton of support behind the development of the program. "All of our juvenile judges were all on board with this. Mental health is like any other health related issue. We have to provide the supports that people need to improve their lives, which improves the quality of our community," said Copeland.

Copeland says the grant will help get the program off the ground and hopes later to apply for additional funds.

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