Juvenile justice agencies face a significant challenge meeting the health needs of the youth in their systems. Medicaid, which provides health coverage to more than half of all low-income children in this country, can be a vital partner in juvenile justice reform efforts. However, coordination between juvenile justice systems and state Medicaid programs can be much improved. It may help many juvenile justice officials to learn more about Medicaid and how it can be used to improve their programs and the lives of the young people they work with. The purpose of this State Health Policy Briefing is to provide those who work with system-involved youth with an introduction to Medicaid and its key concepts, as they pertain to the juvenile justice system.
Young people involved in the juvenile justice system suffer disproportionately from unmet mental and physical health needs, including mental health disorders, oral health problems, reproductive health issues, and substance abuse issues. The significant health needs of many of these adolescents may be part of the reason that led to their arrests or involvement in the juvenile justice system. If their health needs remain unaddressed, they are much less likely to live productive lives and succeed in school or work, and are more likely to face re-arrest after release.
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