Judge Theresa Dellick wants lawmakers to help find a way to provide mental health service for indigent youths.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's time to stop talking about the lack of state-run facilities for juveniles with psychiatric problems and start solving the problem, a local judge says.
Ohio's mental health system does not provide residential treatment facilities for youths with psychiatric problems or other special needs.
Those facilities were available in the past but were eliminated by the state several years ago in a move toward placing the treatment burden on local communities, which have had to rely on private facilities.
That's why Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court has asked local legislators to meet with her and other juvenile court officials Sept. 7 at the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center.
"I want them to help identify the best way to approach this problem," the judge said.
Need for services: State and local officials must address the need for either nonprofit or state-run juvenile psychiatric facilities, Judge Dellick said. Without them, local youths who need those services must be sent out of state, which creates a hardship on their families.
The problem came to light when 14-year-old Jackie Colon wound up in the juvenile center late last year. She is accused of throwing a 3-month-old boy out a second-story window of her home then stabbing the infant some 60 times late last year.
The teen-ager is both mentally retarded and mentally ill. In March, she was found mentally incompetent to stand trial and was ordered into a residential treatment facility. So far, though, officials have not found one that will accept her.
She was to be sent to a mental health facility in Indiana last month, but that fell through and she is still in the juvenile center. Judge Dellick said staffers there do their best to care for her, but lack the expertise to provide the help she needs.
"We need to do something," Judge Dellick said. "The kids with special needs are the toughest and there is [no] place to put them."
Other option: Without state facilities, the only option is to put the offenders in jail, where care is provided at county expense but the necessary treatment is not available, she added.
The problem with relying on private facilities is that they are often reluctant to accept youths who pose a high risk of danger to other residents because of the liability they would face, the judge said.
And with no government money in place to pay the bill, it's easier for facilities to simply refuse to accept the difficult patients.
"Unfortunately, it often comes down to profit and loss," Judge Dellick said.
That's why she will enlist the help of lawmakers to find a way to provide services for youths who need them but can't afford to pay for them.