New Sumner County (TN) Juvenile Mental Health Court Aims To Destigmatize Mental Illness, Keep Kids Out of the System

Read the original article source of this excerpt. on 9/15/2021

Sumner County Youth Empowerment (SCYE) is Tennessee’s first juvenile mental health court. The intensive probation and treatment program, which kicked off in May and welcomed its first case last month, is designed to help vulnerable youth avoid the adult court system.

“We figured a court is the best place to start. The purpose is to help kids and families who come through the system and try to figure out if their behaviors are because of mental illness,” said Alan Hickey, Assistant Juvenile Court Director.

Judge David R. Howard said the idea came from a conversation he had with Judge Mike Carter, who started Sumner County’s adult mental health court.

“A lot of issues are untreated because we don’t know what to do. We are still struggling with what do you do with a child with mental health issues. Is the behavior driving the mental health issues or are the mental health issues driving the behavior,” said Judge Howard, who is a General Sessions Court and Juvenile Court Judge.

Judge Carter was a tremendous help in the early development stages of SCYE, which was modeled after a juvenile drug court program in Denton, Texas.

“We want to try to take the stigma away from mental health issues, especially for kids. They deserve better than that,” said Judge Howard.