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Article Abstract

Online ISSN: 1099-176X    Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 7, Issue 2, 2004. Pages: 59-68

Published Online: 30 May 2004

Copyright © 2004 ICMPE.


 

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment and Juvenile Crime

Alison Evans Cuellar,1* Sara Markowitz,2 Anne M. Libby3

1Department of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
2Department of Economics, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ and National Bureau of Economic Research, New York, NY, USA
3Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO, USA

* Correspondence to: Alison Evans Cuellar, Department of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University, 600 W. 168th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10032, USA
Tel.: +1-212-305 2856
Fax: +1-212-305 3405
E-mail: ac2068@columbia.edu

Source of Funding: Partial support was provided by NIMH (K01 MH067086-01, Cuellar, PI), the Institute for Child and Family Policy, Columbia University (Cuellar, PI), the Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies Faculty Award for Scholarly Research at Rutgers University, Newark (Sara Markowitz, PI), and by a W.T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Award (Libby, PI).

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of mental health and substance abuse treatment in reducing crimes committed by juveniles. This paper uses detention data in conjunction with substance abuse and mental health treatment data on at-risk youth in Colorado over a three-year period. Duration models are used to examine the impact of treatment in delaying or preventing this group of at-risk youth from engaging in criminal behavior. Violent crimes are analyzed separately. The price of beer is also included in all models to gauge the effectiveness of higher beer prices in reducing crime, holding treatment constant. The analysis finds that individuals who receive treatment have lower probabilities of being detained for any offence. Also consistent with our theory, higher beer prices lower the detention hazard. Accounting for the unobserved heterogeneity makes the magnitude of these effects larger.

 

Background and Study Aims: There is a large body of literature examining the determinants of juvenile crime, which highlights economic, family, peer, and educational factors associated with delinquency and recidivism, and the important roles of social service and educational systems. Two factors, substance abuse and mental illness are also potentially important. The observed high correlations between crime, substance abuse and poor mental health suggests that factors which reduce substance abuse and improve mental health may also be effective in reducing criminal activities. The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of mental health and substance abuse treatment in reducing crimes committed by juveniles.
Methods: This paper uses detention data in conjunction with substance abuse and mental health treatment data for youth enrolled in the Colorado state foster care program over a three year period. Duration models are used to examine the structural determinants of detention. We analyze the impact of treatment in delaying or preventing this group of at-risk youth from engaging in criminal behavior. Violent crimes are analyzed separately. We also include the price of beer in all models to gauge the effectiveness of higher beer prices in reducing crime, holding treatment constant.
Results: The analysis finds that individuals who receive treatment have lower probabilities of being detained for any offence. Accounting for the unobserved heterogeneity makes the magnitude of these effects larger. Also consistent with our theory, higher beer prices lower the detention hazard.
Conclusion: Results of this study suggest that expansion of health services targeted at these youth may be effective at reducing crime. For violent crime, where the literature shows that substance abuse plays a significant role, stricter alcohol-regulatory policies may also be highly effective.


Received 21 November 2003; accepted 2 April 2004

Copyright 2004 ICMPE