Saturday, April 4, 2020

Say No to Mental Health Screening – Teenscreen

September 13, 2009 by  
Filed under CCHR Issues

Teenscreen In Louisiana

It is a little known fact that in Louisiana, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 11- to 18-year-olds. Almost as many teens die by suicide every year as those who die from all natural causes combined. 

 Suicide is the direct result of serious emotional and mental disorders that are largely undetected, undiagnosed and untreated in youth. While suicide is the most appalling result, it is estimated that unidentified and untreated mental disorders can mean the loss of critical development years and can lead to other outcomes such as school failure and involvement with the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems. 

 Approximately 50 percent of students with a mental disorder at age 14 and older drop out of high school. Research shows that a huge majority, 70 percent, of youth in juvenile justice system custody have some type of mental health disorder. 

 From an economic standpoint, it is far more cost effective to screen these youth for mental health problems and connect them to resources within the community. In Louisiana, we spend $150,000 annually to incarcerate one juvenile at a state juvenile detention facility. Over his or her lifetime, a drop-out makes a negative net fiscal impact on society, while a high-school graduate makes a positive impact on average of over $287,000. 

 Clearly, access to mental health services is central to the health and well-being of children. We can afford neither the hard costs of incarceration nor the human potential that is lost when a young person drops out of high school. We must avoid losing critical developmental years that can never be recaptured. The good news is that we can identify children with emotional and mental disorders, and link those “at-risk” with effective services and supports. 

For the past six years, TeenScreen, a program of the Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana, has been doing just that. TeenScreen is a nationally recognized, evidence-based program developed by Columbia University that has been widely touted nationally by health care professionals and more than 34 national organizations.

Our local program was named the 2007 Model Program by the TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups. Last year 4,000 families were offered mental health screening in 18 locations by the Teen Screen program through Monroe City and Ouachita Parish Schools.

Locally 30 percent of our youth are screening positive in need of further referrals and diagnosis by mental health professionals. Social workers track these young people and work with their families to assure that proper referrals are made.

TeenScreen is making a tremendous difference locally in the lives of young people and families. The TeenScreen program in Ouachita Parish is the official suicide prevention program in Louisiana. We are the only location in the state where this evidence-based program is being fully implemented.

The Children’s Coalition believes that by making the mental health of our youth a priority, we can prevent so many of the other major issues that threaten our children’s futures such as alcohol and substance abuse, truancy, school failure, teen pregnancy, and juvenile delinquency. As our state leaders look to trim their budgets, highly effective programs such as Teen Screen must be protected and even expanded. Not only is it cost effective to prevent the negative outcomes for our youth, it is our moral duty to intervene and provide young people with the help and support they need at these critical times of their lives.

For more information, contact Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana, 318-323-8775, or

Lynda Gavioli is executive director of the Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana.

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