GREENE COUNTY, Mo. — The Greene County Juvenile Office saw over 1,000 kids and teens last year and is already on track to surpass that number in 2023.
The office saw 1,300 referrals in 2022 and so far has already seen 1,000 kids and teens come through their office this year.
This comes on the heels of a groundbreaking for a youth crisis center operated by Burrell Behavioral Health.
While the center will not be receiving kids who commit violent crimes, the juvenile office is looking forward to the crisis center officially opening its doors so they have another way to divert kids from a life of crime.
“Many times we see that the behavior of this youth is tied to some sort of underlying mental illness,” said Chief Juvenile Officer Bill Prince.
Over the past three years, the juvenile office has seen an increase in kids with mental health issues.
“I think a lot of times the drivers of some of the delinquent behavior that we see is mental health-related,” Prince said. “And so I’m thinking that if we can identify those issues and get them treated before they drive behavior that is illegal in nature, that’s going to keep kids out of this system in the short term and it’s going to keep kids out of the adult criminal justice system in the long term.”
Prince says the new youth crisis center will be a great addition to the juvenile office’s toolbox once it’s officially up and running.
“We would have youth that would be in our detention center, which is not a place where you really want kids with mental health issues,” Prince said. “But that was the only place that could keep them safe and the community safe.”
At the Sept. 18 groundbreaking of the crisis center, Regional President of Burrell Behavioral Health Clay Goddard said the center could help keep kids with mental health issues from getting into trouble with the law.
“It really is going to take us as a community working together and trying to keep them out of those harmful environments,” Goddard said.
The juvenile office hopes the ones who benefit the most from this center will be the kids and their families.
“Having that center available as a resource for families is going to be excellent for this community,” said Prince.