LOS ANGELES — Still struggling to find ways to better serve youthful offenders with mental illness and keep probation officers safe, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors called for one more report and approved $7.4 million for the installation of closed circuit cameras in Central Juvenile Hall.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn co-authored a motion calling for several county departments and law enforcement agencies to come up with a plan to increase options for treating mentally ill minors out of detention.
Probation Chief Terri McDonald said the department has teams that work with the courts, prosecutors and public defenders to try to place minors in community-based settings when possible.
“Our preference is home on probation if it’s safe to do that,” McDonald told the board. However, as with adult offenders suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, resources are limited, she added.
As the population of juvenile offenders in the county system has dropped by 80% over the last 15 years, the minors that remain are more likely to have high rates of trauma — such as abuse, homelessness and sexual exploitation — and need mental health care, according to an April report by the Department of Mental Health.
Roughly 90% of youth in juvenile halls in 2018 had an open mental health case, according to the report. That represents a 38% increase since 2015, although the report also speculated that improved screening may have contributed to the rise.
The use of psychotropic medication by youth has ticked up from 2018 to 2019, indicating a more severely mentally ill population, according to a DMH representative.
Hiring a director to coordinate care across agencies, expanding on-site coverage by mental health clinicians and clinical staff, setting up crisis outreach and response teams, and integrating data and health records across departments are all anticipated to be part of the proposal to improve care.