More trauma-informed care at the Juvenile Detention Center

MEDFORD, Ore. – The Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center is working on solutions to help kids who are dealing with trauma.

Dee Anne Everson with United Way said kids are dealing with trauma before they even get to the detention center.

“It is not filled with kids whose everything is right already, it’s filled with kids who have a lot of wrong in their life and doing a crime was available, accessible and not too hard to do,” Everson said.

According to Joe Ferguson with the Jackson County Juvenile Center, it is not easy adding trauma-informed care into a correction facility.

“To deal with trauma in a correctional facility, it is hard. We are really seeing, especially on the youths side, a lot more kids are having trauma,” Ferguson said.

To combat some of the trauma, the center brought back the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee six months ago. It then created a sub-committee centered around trauma, which would be anything from a child dealing with an unstable environment to a violent event in the family. So far, the committee has already recommended a number of changes to the facility.

“Small changes make the biggest difference. It’s not often that huge changes make the biggest difference,” Everson said.

Some of those changes include giving kids ear plugs and a sleeping mask when they first arrive, rather than as a reward. The center is looking to bring in emotional support animals, it is repainting the main spaces and adding chalk walls in each of the cells, it also has 24/7 access to crisis mental health. Right now, the committee is looking at finding new ways to introduce kids into the facility when they first arrive to help them better adjust. And when a kid arrives, they will now take a mental health screen test to measure how much care that child will need.

“We have a screening tool for kids coming into detention called the Maze 2. It also looks at a lot of pieces, substance abuse, anger management, decision making and there is a piece on trauma and then it gives a score as a pre-screening. Then we work with our mental health professionals in terms of them working with the youth or families,” Ferguson said.

And before a kid goes on probation, they take the Aces Mental Health Test. Some of the questions on that test include: did your parent or an older adult in the household often or very often swear at you or insult you, did an adult or person five years or older ever touch you, did a household member ever go to prison?

“So to look at their Aces score and then that will also recommend ongoing mental health counseling,” Ferguson said.

Everson and Ferguson said the goal is to help the kids transition back into the real world after their time in the center.

“The goal isn’t to make it better for them just while they are there. the goal is to make them successful for re-entry,” Everson said.

“[To] make sure they are still connected with a mental health worker back in the community,” Ferguson said.

To help the kids be productive members of society, and not to have them end up in prison.

“What we don’t want to have is that juvenile becomes the pipeline to prison for adults,” Everson said.


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