Mental health, juvenile justice, and what we could change to make West Virginia a place where young people thrive
This report has its origin in disappointment. In 2016, several child advocacy groups, including many students in West Virginia’s public school system, worked hard to pass a modest piece of legislation aimed at assessing the state’s capacity to address the mental health needs of its young people.
With a strained economy, a fast-growing foster care population, the opioid epidemic, and communities in crisis, it seemed to many observers and supporters, this no- or low-cost legislation was a proverbial “no brainer” — one that could even save the state money since unaddressed mental health issues and/or trauma underlie many cases of delinquency and negative health outcomes later in life.
It was not to be. The legislation died on the vine. Many of the young people who worked hard to support the bill were saddened, angered, and confused. But some were determined to continue the struggle.
Their work and passion inspired this listening project, which is aimed at bringing the voices of young people to the attention of decision makers. Several of them worked on this project, and many more are ready to push for long overdue attention to the mental health needs of young West Virginians. We dedicate this work to them.
WRITTEN BY: Rick Wilson, Director of AFSC’s West Virginia Economic Justice Program