Juvenile Court improves youth services

SIDNEY — The Shelby County Juvenile Court has made improvements with the addition of staff positions for a mental health counselor and a community service coordinator. Funding for these positions is being provided through a grant from the State’s RECLAIM Ohio program.

“First, I would like to thank our staff for their hard work in securing this grant,” said Judge Jeffrey Beigel. “These positions will allow us to better address two important goals: improving the early intervention and rehabilitation of our youth and having service programs to impress upon youth offenders that they are accountable to their community for their conduct.

“The mental health counselor will play a critical role in the court’s early evaluation of a youth’s personal or family issues. This will not replace the traditional long-term counseling ordered by the Court. It will allow us, however, to respond more quickly when evaluating the immediate issues facing a youth,” he said. “Delays in providing mental health counseling can often contribute to a youth’s problems, making the long-term counseling more difficult and increasing the risk a youth will re-offend. This early intervention is essential to minimizing these problems and determining the best course of action for a youth.

“The community service coordinator continues our development of community service projects for delinquent and unruly youths. It means projects can now be performed throughout the week. In the past service projects were limited to weekends because of our probation staffs’ weekly schedule and their court responsibilities,” he continued. “This will allow us to expand service opportunities throughout the week by providing a staff member to supervise projects at the youth’s school, township, village, city, and other community organizations. Overall we find that community service is a good early intervention approach for youth offenders and are pleased that we can expand this program using the RECLAIM Ohio grant.”

The mental health counselor and community service coordinator are just part of Beigel’s long-term plans for the Juvenile Court. The court recently implemented the Ohio Youth Assessment System to provide enhanced analysis of disposition alternatives for at-risk youths and expanded its diversion programs for eligible youths.

Disposition alternatives can include diversion, counseling, probation, community service, detention and long term-rehabilitation or commitment. The court’s improvement of its early intervention programs and the RECLAIM Ohio grant are intended to reduce the county’s need, and significant costs, of detention and long-term commitment programs for youth offenders.