Michigan Should Provide a Public Safety Net for Kids
- School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Child Welfare Crossover
- Mental Health
- Juvenile Defense
- Juvenile Competency
- In-Home Care Incentive
- PREA, Isolation, Restraint
- Youth in Adult System
- Juvenile Life Without Parole
- Youth Reentry
In an attempt to cut state costs, the Michigan legislature is again considering closing one of the last three remaining state-ran juvenile justice facilities—W.J. Maxey Boys Training School (Maxey). As Michigan has increasingly privatized its juvenile justice system over the last decade, and state law prioritizes privately-operated juvenile residential placements over state facilities, this public facility is regularly placed on the chopping block as way to shrink the Department of Health & Human Services budget.
The majority of juvenile justice professionals agree that public facilities like this provide an essential safety net for youth who need specialized treatment or would otherwise be sent to adult prison. Despite these views, the gap in the state budget seems insurmountable this year and, as the Michigan Senate proposed, closing Maxey would put over $1 million back into the budget—a much needed boost. The Governor and the State House also proposed cuts to the facility’s budget, but would not close the building altogether.
Private facilities have the right to refuse any youth from their care.
This state facility is often considered the “last resort” option, and is often the only placement that will accept youth who have been refused by private facilities due to past behavioral incidents, or an inability to handle youth adjudicated for serious violent offenses. Many of the youth residing in public facilities like Maxey were placed there after the court determined that a high-secure facility was the only appropriate placement to provide adequate treatment.
Based on a Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency report from 2012:
- Approximately 40%of the youths housed in state facilities have been previously rejected by private facilities.
- On average, children experience four private facility placements before entering a public facility, with some youth having up to 22 prior placements.
Public facilities specialize in working with high-need or violent youth.
Most youth in public placement suffer from chronic and severe emotional disturbances, and often, the public facilities are the only residential options level to provide the necessary high-level mental health services to address these issues. Many of these kids are also one step away from adult prison, and have been convicted as adults and given blended sentences (housed in a youth facility until turning 17 and then placed in prison if warranted).
More specifically, Maxey has a comprehensive behavioral health and intake assessment program, which includes assessment of risk, needs and strengths, psychiatric/psychological needs (mental status exam and suicide assessment), education, psycho-social needs, substance abuse, and spirituality. In addition to their on-staff clinicians who provide intensive therapy, Maxey contracts with child psychiatrists to prescribe and monitor medications for youth with severe mental health needs.
Despite serving youth with the highest needs, Maxey has great success with the Michigan Youth Reentry Initiative.
Based on an internal assessment conducted in 2012, the DHHS juvenile justice facilities had an 80% success rate (meaning the youth did not re-offend) among cases returning to the community.
With the understanding that family engagement is necessary to achieve positive outcomes in facility treatment goals and successful community reentry, the public facilities will often make extra efforts to assist families in maintaining contact, and participating in treatment services w/ their young loved one. Maxey regularly arranges transportation (or reimburse mileage) for visiting families who need it.
It’s said that private youth facilities can provide the same services as public at a cheaper cost to Michigan taxpayers–but is this really the case?
A true cost comparison between the state and private facilities is difficult to determine because the per diem rates are calculated differently. While public facility per diem costs are calculated by dividing the cost of the entire facility by the number of occupied beds, private facility costs are calculated by dividing the cost of the facility by all beds. The result is an artificially higher bed per diem cost for state facilities. State facilities also must include their education costs in the per diem rate, while most private facilities receive additional state K-12 foundation allowance on top of their reported per diem rates.
Another important point to consider is that private placement per diem costs have continually increased over the last several years. Private facility administrative costs are not included in the private per diem calculation and they are dramatically increasing annually. Despite being responsible for the most severe mental health, substance abuse and sexual offender populations with the attendant higher treatment costs, the per diem costs for the state juvenile justice facilities have been declining, with rates that are now lower than some private providers.
Private agencies can provide excellent care for youth who need it, but a public safety net should remain.
While research shows that youth in trouble with the law are best served by participating in treatment that allows them to remain in their family’s home, is evidence-based, individualized, and promotes healthy adolescent development, there are unfortunately some cases where youths (due to safety concerns) must be placed in out of home facilities.
Michigan’s private residential placements can provide excellent treatment and services for youth in their care to live healthy, productive lives as when they return to their home communities. Nonetheless, options must remain available for those youth that private facilities are unable (or refuse) to adequately treat. The three juvenile state facilities can provide age-appropriate, evidence-based treatment programs in a highly secure environment without jeopardizing public safety, or reducing the effectiveness of the therapeutic models utilized.
Maxey Boys would close under budget bill – Lansing State Journal
DHHS Appropriations Bill Decision Document – Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency