116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Linn County Juvenile Detention Center has started working with a therapist from Tanager Place, a children’s human services agency, to provide mental health services to incarcerated juveniles.
Holly Miller started volunteering with the detention center once a week during summer 2021 and in January started working there full-time, after the center received a grant from Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region.
The grant will run out this summer, but Tanya Hotchkin, vice president of clinical services with Tanager Place, said the human services agency is working with the detention center to find other funding options.
“We are beginning to talk about who stakeholders are and who has a vested interest to keep this project going long term,” Hotchkin said. “This has been identified as a significant need for those youth and families.
“We believe in this project and the collaboration and are hopeful to keep it going into the foreseeable future.”
Miller earned a bachelor’s in psychology from Quincy University as well as a master’s in forensic psychology from Walden University and a master’s in professional counseling from Liberty University.
She said she hopes to grow her work into a larger mental health program.
“I just have a passion for it. When I was in undergrad and grad school, I worked at a detention center in Adams County in Illinois, and I just fell in love with the population,” Miller said.
“I have my own background as a troubled youth, so I’ve always been connected because I was able to get help and I want to help kids the way I was helped.”
Miller said a lot of her work with the detention center is focused on prevention. Juveniles sentences typically are not very long, so Miller doesn’t have a lot of time to work with the youths while they’re in the detention center. But part of her job is to help connect those leaving the center with outside services.
She also works with parents to make sure the children obtain the help they need and their families have access to resources.
Miller said she’s trying to approach mental health in the center with a wide view, not only focusing on individual juvenile needs but also work in group settings and provide training for the correctional staff.
She’ll also work one on one with staff members who believe they need help applying certain mental health skills.
The detention center has other mental and physical health programs for the incarcerated youths, including trauma-informed yoga and a raised garden that the youths help to tend, according to Dawn Schott, the director of the detention center.
Miller said if the mental health program continues she wants to be able to provide more opportunities for the youths to express themselves and learn about different occupations, by bringing people in to share with them or host classes.
“This program, if we can continue getting it funded, hopefully it will grow bigger. I want to be able to do support groups for parents, and I’d love to be able to get more activities out here for the kids,” Miller said.
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