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MDHHS secures nearly 100 new juvenile justice placements through partnerships with local communities and providers

Rite of Passage in Macomb County latest program added    

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and its partners have worked together to create approximately 100 new placements for juvenile justice youth since March 1 as part of their efforts to reform the system.

MDHHS has reached an agreement with Rite of Passage – a national provider of youth services – to create a new program with 20 placements for juvenile justice youth statewide, with the possibility of additional placements later. Rite of Passage will provide secure treatment for youth at the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center in Mount Clemens, with the facility fully operational and admitting youth as of Monday, Nov. 20.

The additional placements and a package of bills approved by the State House and Senate earlier this month will further address the need for more treatment options for youth, MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said.

“MDHHS recognizes the need for reform so that juvenile justice youth can receive the treatment they need to realize their dreams,” Hertel said. “We have made great progress in providing additional placement options and will continue to work with the Legislature, counties and judges around the state, and advocates for youth to make Michigan’s juvenile justice system a national model for success.”

MDHHS is partnering with Macomb County on the Rite of Passage project to lease available space at the juvenile justice center. The new program is called the St. Clair Youth Treatment Center.

The new residential treatment program will feature low ratios of youth per staff that are conducive to treatment, single rooms, an indoor gym, library classroom space, a kitchen and dining hall, and outdoor basketball courts and green space. The program will serve males ages 13-20 with a history of delinquent behavior who have mental health, substance use disorder and/or behavioral needs.                                    

“We look forward to our partnership with MDHHS and Macomb County," said Dr. Ray Moss, program director for the St. Clair Youth Treatment Center. “In collaboration, we are taking an important step to expand the continuum of care options for Michigan youth in need of evidence-based treatment services.”

Added Deputy County Executive Andrew McKinnon: “Macomb County is dedicated to doing what it can to assist the state and its neighbors to provide greater outcomes for all of our youth. We appreciate the ability to provide space for this program and the state’s willingness to work with us to find ever better ways to manage juvenile detention facilities.” 

Other juvenile justice placements MDHHS has secured since March include:

  • 12 at Highfields Inc., which has headquarters in Ingham County.
  • 3 at Holy Cross Children’s Services new location opening in Saginaw.
  • 2 provided by Bethany Christian Services of Grand Rapids.
  • 40 at Spectrum Human Services in Highland Park in Wayne County.
  • 20 at the Team Wellness Center at Eastern Market, which operates a day treatment program for juvenile justice-involved youth.

Clinton County Probate Court and Family Division Judge Lisa Sullivan praised the efforts by MDHHS to better meet the placement needs of juvenile justice youth.

“I applaud MDHHS for its leadership in taking these steps in making more placement options available to Michigan youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system,” Sullivan said. “Our young people and our communities are better off when youth have the treatment services they need to return home and have an opportunity to be successful.”

Sullivan is a member of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Residential Facilities Advisory Committee, which was formed to make recommendations to improve Michigan’s juvenile justice system and better serve youth. She also is a member of and former president of the Michigan Probate Judges Association.

Hertel and Suzanna Shkreli, MDHHS director of juvenile justice reform, also praised the bipartisan legislation that would put into law innovations recommended by the Task Force on Juvenile Justice. The legislation is known as the Justice for Kids and Communities bill package.

“The Task Force on Juvenile Justice was charged with developing ambitious and innovative recommendations for changes in state law, policy and appropriations to improve youth and family outcomes,” Shkreli said. “This is a key part of our juvenile justice reform. The Justice for Kids and Communities bipartisan bill package was developed with broad consensus of local, state and federal stakeholders and offers our state a once-in-a-generation opportunity to align policies and practices across the juvenile justice continuum with research and best practices to better serve our kids.”

By increasing the state reimbursement rate to 75% for counties that prioritize community-based services for youth over detention, youth will be able to remain in their homes while beds in detention facilities and other child-caring institutions will be freed up for youth who need them the most, she said. “The bills guarantee that all youth in our state benefit from evidence-based and data-driven practices,” Shkreli said. “Michigan’s youth should be treated with the same principles and given the same opportunities for support within their own communities, whether they are from down river, Up North, or central Michigan.”

The St. Clair Youth Treatment Center and the legislation are in addition to numerous other reform efforts that have come from creation of the MDHHS Juvenile Justice Reform Division earlier this year and the task force in 2021.

The MDHHS Juvenile Justice Reform Division leads efforts to bring counties to the table to collaborate on reform discussions. Between May and October 2023, the reform team hosted several discussions with counties and reform leaders to discuss evidence-based programming, residential and detention bed availability, use of Medicaid funds for placing youth out of state, challenges in transporting juvenile justice youth who are leaving detention facilities, and use of best practices in the reform effort.

The division contacted out-of-state providers to request help providing additional treatment options in Michigan to address immediate needs and request they consider developing programs that will meet long-term needs. The division facilitates regular discussions with court, county, behavioral health, mental health, and others to ensure that communication and coordination of efforts will lead to a streamlined approach to ensure the needs of youth and families are met.

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