The Linn County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) recently received a $5,000 COVID-19 relief grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. The grant funds received will be used in the development of a collaborative effort between the JDC and UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids to provide mental health services to the youth in detention.
The Linn County Juvenile Detention Center holds youth ages 12-17 who have committed a crime and are deemed a risk to themselves or the community. Pre-COVID lengths of stays at the JDC were 10-12 days. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, placements have slowed their response to accept youth into their programs thus the average length of stay has jumped to 17-20 days with a few youth in detention 60-90-120 plus days. Being away from family and friends is hard, and being away during a pandemic is even harder.
During the pandemic, 27 percent of the youth in detention have expressed that they have recently had suicidal thoughts. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the rate of suicide among those aged 10 to 24 increased nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018, add the stress of the pandemic, and it can easily be assumed many more youth have thoughts that are hard to share and thus expressed through inappropriate or life threatening behaviors.
While 2020 has brought the important issue of mental health awareness into the national dialogue, Linn County has long been active in providing mental health supportive services and has a responsibility to the youth in its care.
Through the grant-funded collaborative, a mental health provider, arranged by UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids, will provide trauma focused services to the youth residing in detention, assist JDC staff in developing better practices to handle the unhealthy and often destructive behaviors identified, and allow for some continuity of services moving forward when the youth returns to the community.
“Many of the youth in our care have experienced significant trauma and they do not have the life experiences to handle the challenges,” said Linn County Juvenile Detention & Diversion Services Director Dawn Schott. “These at risk youth tend to turn to unhealthy coping strategies. The mental health of our residents is an extremely important aspect of stabilization, which is a part of Detention’s mission. This grant will aid in the beginning of collaborated efforts for effective behavioral assessments that could change the trajectory of their lives.”