On March 27, the Schubert Center completed its 2014-2015 Conversation Series, “Exploring Equity and Resilience in Childhood” with “Assessing and Responding to Violence Risk in Juveniles”. This event was in collaboration with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine/University Hospitals Case Medical Center Psychiatry Grand Rounds.
Charles Scott, MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, University of California, Davis; Chief, Division of Psychiatry and the Law, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services, University of California, Davis presented on his experiences working as a forensic psychiatrist and current research assessing the future dangerousness of youth.
Scott spoke about the challenges in considering various risk factors and social context of juveniles to determine the likelihood of future violence. He emphasized that both juvenile violence and school violence have decreased over the last decade. Scott highlighted three main approaches for assessing future violence risk: (1) clinical evaluations, (2) actuarial instruments that provide a predictive score, and (3) structured tools, such as the SAVRY, that combine the two approaches. Structured tools can improve both risk assessment and matching interventions to the level of need. He cautioned however about the reliance of such tools in various environments, such as schools, and the potential problems with zero tolerance. Scott also noted that most youth mature out of criminal behavior and urged decision-makers, such as juvenile judges, to gain a full understanding of the instruments in order to best assess any recommendations based on their findings.
Community respondent Jim Adams, CEO, Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services, discussed some of the lessons he learned leading the mental health services response in Geauga County to the Chardon High School shooting in 2012. As a nationwide advocate for assessing threats and responding to school violence. Adams reiterated the need for effective assessment and school-based interventions where appropriate.
Following the Grand Rounds presentation, Scott and Adams met for a private discussion with a diverse group of Northeast Ohio practitioners, researchers and stakeholders. Among those attending were local judges, juvenile court officers, mental health and other social service providers. The discussion emphasized the importance of evidence-based assessment and flexibility to respond to individual risks and needs. All focused on the importance of considering children’s broader social context, including home life and community support, when developing treatment plans.