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Summit County Juvenile Court’s Crossroads program gets certification nod

On Nov. 21, Summit County Juvenile Court Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio and her staff received notification from the Supreme Court of Ohio that the Commission of Specialized Dockets voted to give the Crossroads program final certification. The 22-member committee outlines certain standards that courts must meet to achieve this designation. The certification will be in place until Dec. 31, 2015. Judge Teodosoio implemented the Crossroads docket in 2003, an intensive probation alternative designed to help youth with substance abuse problems, mental illness or both conditions to get their lives back on track. Crossroad Program Supervisor Katy VanHorn (standing) with Magistrate Kristin Maxwell, who holds the certificate issued by the Ohio Supreme Court that acknowledges the certification of the Summit County Juvenile Court’s Crossroads Program as a Specialized Docket. (Photo courtesy of the Summit County Juvenile Court)

Legal News Reporter

Published: January 2, 2015

A 2006 study by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice found that between 65 and 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health disorder and nearly 61 percent of those with at least one diagnosis also had a substance abuse problem.

Three years before the study, Summit County Juvenile Court Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio unveiled the Crossroads program, an intensive probation alternative designed to help youth with substance abuse problems, mental illness or both.

“When I took the bench, one of the first things I looked at was how to assist kids with mental health and substance abuse issues who came before the court,” said Judge Teodosio. “I wanted to steer their families toward treatment as early as possible. I thought about setting up a separate mental health docket for kids with mental illness. Instead I began working with a number of community partners to create what is now Crossroads, a specialized docket geared specifically toward youth with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.

“I think that we were the first community in the country to recognize the importance of dealing with youth with co-occurring disorders,” said Judge Teodosio.

Implemented in 2003, Crossroads relies on the efforts of those from many diverse organizations such as the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, the Children Services Board and Child Guidance & Family Solutions as well as the parents and family advocacy groups.

On Nov. 21, Judge Teodosio and her staff received notification from the Supreme Court of Ohio that the Commission of Specialized Dockets voted to give the Crossroads program final certification. The 22-member committee outlines certain standards that courts must meet to achieve this designation.

“The Supreme Court requires specialized dockets to be certified in order to ensure that they are operating in a uniform manner that follows all judicial ethics,” said Judge Teodosio. “We received preliminary certification about a year ago.

“I am thrilled for the staff members of the Crossroads program who work so hard every day to make it such an effective docket.”

The certification will be in place until Dec. 31, 2015.

“We will continue to work hard every day to maintain the standards that led to this certification,” said Judge Teodosio.

“Specialized dockets have proven effective at addressing persistent criminal behaviors,” said Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’ Connor. “Specialized dockets result in significantly lower recidivism rates which means offenders become productive members of society.”

Judge Teodosio said Crossroads is designed for those between 12 and 17 who have committed non-violent offenses.

“Many times we find that these kids are suffering from a mental illness and they did not know where to turn so they started to use alcohol or drugs,” said Judge Teodosio. “Our goal is not only to help them achieve wellness but to provide them with the tools necessary to maintain that wellness and lead productive lives long after they leave the program.”

“Kids may be referred to Crossroads on a variety of charges such as domestic violence or felony drug charges,” said Magistrate Kristin Maxwell, who presides over the Crossroads docket.

“If a court worker or magistrate suspects that the youth may have a mental health or substance abuse diagnosis, the youth is then referred to the court’s psychologist for assessment as to whether the youth would be appropriate for Crossroads,” she said. “If the youth is already receiving treatment in the community, records from the existing treatment providers are also requested and reviewed.”

She said once the determination is made that the youth meets the criteria, the family is asked if they would like their child to be a part of it.

“If the family agrees to participate and the youth is accepted into the Crossroads program, then the Crossroads team meets with the family to determine the strengths of the family and the youth and also determines what issues or behaviors are of concern,” said Maxwell. “The Crossroads team then creates an individualized case plan for the youth and family designed to address the needs of the youth.”

A young person must be in the program for a minimum of six months.

“The length of time varies,” said Katy VanHorn, Crossroads supervisor. “We try and individualize the treatment based upon how a child responds.”

VanHorn said there are about 40 young people currently taking part in Crossroads, which has a maximum capacity of 60. About 74 percent of the kids in the program have a co-occurring disorder.

“We have four probation officers and each one can carry up to 15 cases,” said VanHorn.

She said the families are referred to their choice of existing treatment providers and the court assists them in making the financial arrangements.

One of the key “go-to” agencies is Child Guidance & Family Solutions.

“We offer an integrated co-occurring treatment option for those clients with mental health and substance use disorders and an intensive home-based program, which is used mainly by those with mental health issues,” said Dawn Carter, director of clinical services at Child Guidance & Family Solutions.

“The first thing that we do no matter which program a youth is in is to create a safety plan by assessing risk factors,” said Carter. “This is important for the child, family and the community.”

Individual and family counseling, community psychiatric supportive treatment (CPST), crisis and psychiatric services, including medication and sometimes psychological testing, are also a part of the program, she said.

“The next thing that we do is formulate mutual goals,” said Carter, a licensed counseling supervisor for mental health and substance abuse. “Sometimes, the court has one goal, the school has another and the parents want something else. The child might not want to comply with any of those. Our role is to bring about a consensus about where we should start.”

Carter said throughout the treatment process the agency stays in touch with the probation officer and the court to let them know what progress the young person and family are making.

“Our goal is to improve the functioning of the children and reduce mental health/substance abuse symptoms as much as possible so that the child can remain in the community,” she said.

VanHorn said the child is required to adhere to all treatments, including medication, and undergo regular drug screenings if he/she has a substance abuse problem.

“The court does order that the youth participate in some educational program,” said Maxwell. “Sometimes, traditional school is not a good fit for the youth so we work to find an educational program where the youth feels comfortable and can succeed. Often, we refer them to the court’s Family Resource Center for assistance in finding an educational program that will meet the child’s needs.

“In the beginning, the youth will meet with his/her probation officer three times a week and come to court once a week,” said Maxwell. “The court meets Tuesday and Thursday nights in order to accommodate school and working parents.

“As time goes on, visits by the probation officer are reduced and the parent and child will come to court every other week and then every three weeks and eventually every four weeks.”

She said if the young person successfully completes the program, his/her record is expunged.

“Our goal is to fill the child’s tool box with coping mechanisms so that long after they have been dismissed, they will still be able to handle whatever life throws at them,” said Maxwell.

Around six years ago, Summit County parent Patricia found herself looking for help for her 15-year-old daughter. At the time, the teenager was smoking marijuana, holding parties in her home while her mother was at work and violating curfew. The girl was eventually apprehended for participating in a series of car break-ins with two other people.

“I was busy working to pay the bills and I was completely baffled by all of this,” said Patricia. “My daughter was out of control.”

But then Patricia learned about Crossroads.

“I was very thankful,” she said. “I tried moving from Stow to Bath to get her away from the kids she was hanging out with and all that happened is she started hanging out with another bad crowd.

“The Crossroads program really made a difference. She was a part of the program for a year, which helped her get back on track.

“Having a case worker come to the house helped both of us,” said Patricia, who is now a member of the program’s parent mentoring program.

Patricia said her daughter did graduate high school. Now 22, she has a job working for a large jewelry company.

“She would not have had the same fate without Crossroads,” said Patricia. “Now I am doing my part to help parents in situations similar to mine.”