Psych Consults Often Unavailable for Sex Offenders

Article excerpt

DENVER -- A surprising number of community-based and residential treatment programs for juvenile sex offenders don't have psychiatric consultation readily available, Joanne Smith-Darden said at the annual meeting of the National Adolescent Perpetration Network.

This is a significant shortcoming, since mental disorders are common among youths in juvenile justice settings. Their psychiatric problems may contribute to their criminal behavior while at the same time hampering rehabilitation efforts, according to Ms. Smith-Darden, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, Ann Arbor.

She presented unpublished data from the Safer Society Foundation Inc.'s year 2000 national survey of 190 community and 101 residential treatment programs for juvenile sexual abusers.

Safer Society is a nonprofit agency for the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse; it has periodically conducted such surveys since 1986.

The survey showed that 30% of community treatment programs for males and 36% of those for females lacked ready access to psychiatric consultation. The same was true for 18% of residential treatment programs for males and 50% of those for females, she said.

Ms. Smith-Darden discussed other previously unreported highlights of the 2000 survey and of the 2002 survey:

* The paucity of adjunctive substance abuse programs. Abuse of drugs and alcohol is a serious problem among juvenile delinquents.

Indeed, one recent study concluded that 85% of juvenile detainees had used drugs in the previous 6 months.

Many sex offenses are preceded by substance abuse. Since recidivism among adolescent sexual offenders most commonly involves not sex crimes but drug selling and substance abuse, it was disappointing to learn from the Safer Society survey that only about one-third of juvenile sex offender treatment programs offered Narcotics Anonymous and fewer than one-half offered Alcoholics Anonymous, she said.

* The decline in Family therapy. In 2002, both residential and community-based adolescent treatment programs reported holding an average of one family therapy session per month, down from three per month in the 2000 survey. …