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Program to help teens is working

Jail Services Wellness Program aimed at jailed teens with drug and mental health issues is showing considerable promise.

February 12, 2008 


Charlotte, NC – A new program designed to identify and treat the mental health concerns of male youths involved in the justice system, or already serving jail time, shows promise in its first six months, supporters say.

Mecklenburg County Jail Services Wellness Program is an initiative that began in July 2007 as part of MeckCARES, a community-based system of care for youth and families. The aim is to get the youths at Mecklenburg County Jail North the mental health and substance abuse treatment they need, help prevent their return to jail, and help families cope with their return home.

“If we are at all concerned about community safety, the challenges facing youth today, and the futures of our young people and their impact on ours, it is imperative that we be responsive to the needs of youth and their families who have mental health and substance abuse concerns,” Kimm Campbell, MeckCARES clinical director, said.

Supporters say the number of youths who enter the criminal justice system with unidentified or untreated mental health and substance abuse concerns is startling. When the youths do not get the help they need, the chances of their returning to jail increase. Of the 97 referrals to the program since July, the 16- and 17-year-olds had been incarcerated an average of 2.3 times, with the range being one to 10 times. The goals of JSWP include:

  • Identify youth that need mental health services
  • Establish family service partnership before release
  • Reduce likelihood of repeated incarceration
  • Stabilize mental health and prepare family for the youth’s return home.

 The 16- and 17-year-olds, referred to the program by case managers at Mecklenburg County Jail North, receive services through a team effort of several agencies. County, state and federal funds help to finance the program. In addition to MeckCARES, collaborating partners include: Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office Youthful Offender Program, Family Preservation Services, Alexander Youth Network, Teen Health Connection, Energy Committed to Offenders, Substance Abuse Prevention Services and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

In the next six months, the program plans to expand its services to include males ages 10 to 17.

“For a significant number of youth, we may be able to increase the likelihood that they will have their mental health and substance abuse needs managed to the extent that they can become functioning and contributing members of our community, which leads to an increased level of community safety for all of us,” Campbell said.

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Media contact: Kimm Campbell, MeckCARES Clinical Director at 704-432-0695 or or Suzanne Jeffries at 704-353-0774 or


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