Wayne County juvenile jail to add on-site therapy services, mental health program

A team of therapists will soon be stationed at Wayne County's juvenile jail by a local service provider to offer mental health services to youths who have been ordered into treatment, but are still awaiting placements, officials said.

The move is part of a larger effort to tackle issues at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility (JDF), where dangerous conditions led the county to issue a public health emergency order in the spring. On Monday, because conditions have improved, the county rescinded the order.

Team Wellness Center, which has worked with county and state officials, plans to initially place three therapists inside of the facility. The target start date is June 15, said Michael Hunter, president of Team Wellness Center.

“Hopefully, we can establish an effective program, and the definition of effective is we will see these kids getting better with dealing with their past traumas and their current trauma of being incarcerated and then we will also eventually see family reunification and, ultimately, a reduction or elimination in encounters with the law and deviant behavior and truancy,” Hunter said.

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At the time the public health order was issued, the JDF was dealing with a staffing and overcrowding crisis. Before the order was declared, an ongoing Detroit Free Press investigation had detailed troubling conditions, including lengthy room confinements, youths being denied daily showers and recreation, and the alleged sexual assault of a 12-year-old by other youths.

Officials have said the population at the facility has declined, down to 113 this week; youths are out of their rooms most of the day and getting daily showers; 54 new staffers have been hired, and the state has helped place dozens of youths in other facilities.

As of Wednesday, 36 youths at the facility were still awaiting placements. Officials have said the statewide shortage of facilities has left youths stuck at the JDF while they wait for placements, delaying the start of their court-ordered treatment.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, director of Wayne County's Department of Health, Human and Veteran Services previously told the Free Press that the youths stuck awaiting placements are "losing time but not getting credit for it." He said the county is trying to build a system where treatment youths receive in the JDF could count toward the treatment they've been ordered to receive.

In addition to the in-house programming, Team Wellness Center has also developed a community day program for youths from the JDF that is expected to launch soon. Officials have said youths, who have already been ordered into treatment, would be sent home from the JDF on tether and attend the program during the day.

Hunter said the community day program will target youths ages 11 to 17 and provide care that includes therapy, behavioral health services, primary and dental care, vocational assistance, housing assistance and three meals a day. He said transportation will be provided for the youths from their homes in Wayne County to the day program, which will be housed in Team Wellness Center's facility in Eastern Market in Detroit.

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Karlton Akins, a spokesman for Team Wellness Center, said they will provide services as part of an existing contract with Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network, the county's community mental health agency.

El-Sayed previously told the Free Press that, to start, the Team Wellness Center day program would take a dozen youths. Hunter said the community program will ultimately be able to accept up to 70 youths.

Hunter said the program will also offer academic services, including a way for youths who have fallen behind to catch up with online schooling.

“Some of them have missed enough school where they’re behind in their credits," he said. "So they’ll have an opportunity to get those credits restored.”

He said they are also reaching out to local schools in the communities where youths live to build relationships and continue providing care after the program.

"We don’t plan for them to come to our program and leave and then we say, 'OK, they were here, and they’re done,' " Hunter said. "No, we want to be their partner for life and support them through the continuum.”

Contact Gina Kaufman: gkaufman@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ReporterGina. Contact Christine MacDonald: cmacdonald@freepress.com or 313-418-2149. Follow her on Twitter: @cmacfreep.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: New mental health services to start soon at Wayne County juvenile jail