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Linn County Juvenile Detention Center seeks ongoing funding to continue mental health services
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Juvenile Detention Center is seeking funding through the Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region in order to continue its partnership with Tanager Place to provide mental health services to incarcerated juveniles.
The partnership, which started in January 2022, has been successful so far in helping the youth at the center feel better about themselves and learn how to get their behavioral needs met, according to Dawn Schott, the Linn County Juvenile Detention and Diversion Services director.
In January 2022, the juvenile detention center received a grant from the East Central Region that would allow it to have a full-time therapist on staff, through Tanager Place. Holly Miller, who worked for Tanager and had previously volunteered with the detention center, filled the role.
The grant provided enough funding for the project to continue through this summer, but Schott and Tonya Hotchkin, the vice president of clinical services with Tanager Place, said they’d be looking for ongoing funding options in order to continue with the full-time therapist, and possibly grow the position into a larger mental health program.
What’s happened since
The detention center has talked with the East Central Region about receiving more funding to continue the program for another year after the grant runs out. Schott said the partnership is part of the East Central Region’s recommended budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The region will vote on the budget March 23.
Schott said she was able to provide the East Central Region with data that supports continuing the partnership, and she hopes to continue to collect data each year to encourage ongoing funding.
Between January and November 2022, 154 unduplicated juveniles entered the detention center. Forty-eight of those juveniles stayed for one day or less, but of those who stayed for at least two days, 78.3 percent met with a mental health counselor. Among youth who were in the center for four or more days, 83.6 percent met with a counselor, according to Schott.
The detention center also saw a 27 percent decrease during that time in the number of youth placed in holding rooms due to being on heightened suicide watch, Schott said.
Schott said she’s especially impressed with those numbers since there were a few months during the summer when the center only had a counselor available part-time. Miller left for a new job in June, and Bre Brown took over the job in September.
Brown, who graduated from Walden University as a Licensed Master of Social Work, started working with Tanager in January 2022. She had heard about the position with the detention center, and said that she put her name in for consideration as soon as she heard the job would be open.
In the few months that it took to shuffle employees around so Brown could take over at the center, a Tanager employee was available part-time for the juveniles.
“The benefit to (having Brown full-time) is she sees the kids every day. She’s got more time … Bre’s got a list of kids that want to see her every day, which is pretty neat,” Schott said. “They might use it at first to get out of class or get out of something, but you never know what's going to happen in there. We're OK with that because a lot of times good things come from it.”
Beyond meeting with juveniles, both in individual and group settings, Brown’s job involves working to connect youth and their families to other community resources, since most juveniles are in the center for less than two weeks. She also does trainings for detention center staff on mental health related topics for the youth, and for the staff’s own well-being.
In a survey performed recently at the center, 100 percent of the kids surveyed said they agree or strongly agree that the services offered through Tanager Place made it easier to get their behavioral needs met, and that because of participation with Tanager staff, they feel better about themselves. When asked if they feel that, because of Tanager staff, they have better skills to help in challenging situations and dealing with their emotions, 80 percent of the youth surveyed agreed or strongly agreed.
The center also surveyed juvenile court officers who work with arrested minors, and received a lot of positive feedback, according to Schott.
“Detention is not treatment, and so we had to figure out how to meld the concepts together. We continue to not be treatment, but yet we’ve got kids here that need some help, and we need help, behaviorally, and how to best manage that, so the two go hand in hand,” Schott said.
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