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Office of Behavioral Health Services

The Office of Behavioral Health Services (OBHS) is committed to ensuring that youth in DJJ facilities receive the services they need and manages and administers the behavioral health service program in all DJJ facilities. These services include: mental health, general counseling and case management, sex offender treatment, and substance abuse treatment. In addition, OBHS oversees implementation and fidelity of DJJ’s Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports program in secure facilities.

Mental health programming includes the screening, assessment and treatment of youth placed in DJJ facilities who have a mental illness, emotional disturbance or substance abuse problem. Within two hours of admission, all youth are screened for mental health, traumatic experience, substance abuse, and suicide risk. Approximately 50% of those youth screened upon admission are referred for a more thorough mental health assessment. The primary goal is to identify any at-risk youth as early as possible and then to provide the care required to ensure that their basic mental health needs are met. This goal is accomplished through services provided to youth from designated master’s level mental health clinicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists in each secure facility.

Services offered to youth adhere to current best practices and meet the identified needs of the youth in DJJ secure facilities, utilizing evidence based practices. Services offered are driven through an individualized treatment plan utilizing interventions such as individual and group counseling, medication management, crisis intervention and family counseling.

Programs and case management staff offer an array of evidence-based group interventions for skill building and criminogenic risk reduction. In addition, facility case managers provide supportive individual counseling sessions and facilitate regular youth communication with their families. Program and case management staff also provide structured planning and oversight for Recreation and Leisure Programming in secure facilities.

Substance abuse treatment services are available in all DJJ facilities. In short term settings such as regional youth development centers (RYDCs), substance abuse prevention services are provided by mental health clinicians for those youth on the mental health caseload, and by facility case managers for those youth who are not on the mental health caseload. In youth development campuses (YDCs), youth with acute or serious substance abuse treatment needs may receive substance abuse treatment in a designated living unit that utilizes a therapeutic community, the residential substance abuse treatment units (RSAT), which are located at three YDC campuses. Those youth whose needs are less severe or who have barriers to living on an RSAT unit receive substance abuse treatment through group, family, and individual sessions regardless of their housing assignment. This treatment is available at all YDCs.

For youth adjudicated for sexually harmful behaviors, YDCs offer a comprehensive sex offender treatment program that provides individual, group, and family therapy sessions. These services are available at all YDCs.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a proactive approach to establishing the evidence-based behavioral interventions and social culture needed for success for youth in secure facilities. PBIS utilizes data-driven decision making to improve facility climate and culture, including a range of systemic and individualized strategies to reinforce desired behaviors and diminish reoccurrence of problem behaviors in order to achieve improved academic, emotional, and social outcomes, including those with the most complex and intensive behavioral needs. OBHS staff work closely with facility staff and expert PBIS consultants to support PBIS programming in all DJJ secure facilities.

In its commitment to use current best practices for youth in a juvenile justice setting, OBHS has implemented evidence-based treatment models of care, these include:

Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS): This is a group treatment model for youth who have experienced multiple traumatic events. SPARCS focuses on helping youth develop affect/emotional regulation skills, develop healthy self-soothing and self-control techniques, and address their physiological and psychological responses to trauma.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT): A conjoint child and parent psychotherapy approach for children and adolescents who are experiencing significant emotional and behavioral difficulties related to traumatic life events. It is a component-based treatment model that incorporates trauma-sensitive interventions with cognitive behavioral, family, and humanistic principles and techniques.

The Seven Challenges: A Program designed specifically for adolescents with drug problems, to motivate a decision and commitment to change – and to support success in implementing the desired changes. The Program simultaneously helps young people address their drug problems as well as their co-occurring life skill deficits, situational problems, and psychological problems.

Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS): This approach to suicidality integrates a range of theoretical orientations (including psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, humanistic, existential, and interpersonal notions) into a structured clinical format emphasizing the importance of the counselor and client working together to elucidate and understand the "functional" role of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in the patient's life.

EQUIP: This is a group approach for treatment of behavioral disorders. EQUIP uses positive youth culture and treatment to help youth develop anger management skills, social skills, identify and correct thinking errors, and improve moral reasoning.

A New Freedom: New Freedom is a model that is based on evidence-based concepts of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement (MET), motivational interviewing (MI), trans-theoretical stages of change, the social learning model and key coping and problem solving skills for self-efficacy. New Freedom can be delivered through group and individual therapy.

Aggression Replacement Therapy (ART): This is a group approach that addresses behavioral issues. The goals of ART are to assist youth in building in social skills, anger management, and moral reasoning.

Thinking for a Change (T4C): This is a group approach that addresses cognitive distortions and thinking errors. The goal of ART is to help youth identify distorted thinking and develop new skills to correct these distortions.


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3408 Covington Highway - Decatur, GA - 30032
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Phone: 404-508-6500 / Fax: 404-508-7289
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