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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, December 7, 2023


V.I. Delegate Donna M. Christian-Christensen pledged support Wednesday for increased funding for mental health and substance abuse programs, equity for mental health in health care and for bringing critically needed mental health and substance abuse treatment to incarcerated youth.
She made her remarks at a press conference introducing the Mental Health Juvenile Justice Act in Congress.
The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., allocates $500 million from the crime bill trust fund to help state and local communities train professionals to provide community-based treatment to incarcerated youth with mental and substance abuse problems.
Christensen, an original co-sponsor of the bill who served on the Juvenile Justice Task Force of the 105th Congress, said the justice system has failed the nation's children.
“The system has failed the nation’s children of color all their young lives," she said. "Unfortunately, the world into which they are born too often predestines African-American and other children of color to a life in which prison or the justice system predominates.”
The bill has six components:
— Training for juvenile justice personnel.
— Treatment and diversion for youth with serious emotional disturbances.
— Streamlined, integrated system for children.
— Technical assistance for states and local officials.
— Prison construction funds for mental health screening and treatment.
— Legal recourse for neglected or abused children.

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