Shelby County’s Youth Assessment Center plan moves ahead

Shelby County’s Youth Assessment Center plan moves ahead

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Plans are moving forward to create a Youth Assessment Center to target at-risk juveniles in Shelby County.

This comes after a key vote by county commissioners this week.

“Our goal is to make sure that the children in Shelby County that we have an opportunity to offer the something other than the justice system,” said Dr. Altha Stewart with UTHSC.

After two years of discussions, Shelby County and the UT Health Science Center are finalizing a deal.

County commissioners voted Monday to approve half a million dollars for the creation of a Youth Assessment Center.

The money will allow leaders to lay out a pilot plan.

“This is not a law enforcement program,” Stewart said.

Stewart leads the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth and said the center would be: voluntary, restraint-free, and youth and family friendly.

It's geared toward juveniles who've had some interaction with law enforcement or who've demonstrated troubling behavior.

Treatment would include referrals to therapy or other community services. The facility will be housed on the UT campus in Midtown Memphis in a location that hasn’t been revealed yet.

Leaders surveyed similar facilities in Colorado, Minnesota, and Florida. An assessment center in Miami reduced juvenile arrests 67 percent in a 14-year period.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris tweeted his support in recent days, saying the county’s pilot program is needed to give youth who’ve made mistakes a better chance at succeeding.

Leaders must still determine parameters for what would qualify a juvenile for acceptance to the center.

“What we’re hoping to do and ultimately what we hope we will do is offer this community, the children and families at risk in this community who are at risk of falling into that system, for lack of anything else being available for them when they don’t need to be there, we’re hoping that we can fill that void,” Stewart said.

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