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Health Coverage and Care for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: The Role of Medicaid and CHIP

Girls and boys in the juvenile justice system are a diverse group of young people with often complex health needs. Many are from low-income families of color, have suffered abuse, were involved in the foster care system, and may require comprehensive and ongoing physical, reproductive, mental, and behavioral health services upon discharge from juvenile justice residential facilities. The provision of comprehensive, coordinated physical and mental health services for girls and boys while they are in the juvenile justice system and in their communities and after release is important to their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Given the low incomes of many of these youth, Medicaid has the potential to play an important role in financing these services.

This brief provides an overview of the health and mental health needs of girls and boys in the juvenile justice system and the role of Medicaid in addressing those needs.  It focuses on the circumstances of those girls and boys who are placed in juvenile justice residential facilities, the discontinuity of Medicaid coverage for those youth, and the options for improving coverage, continuity of care and access to needed services post-discharge, including new opportunities provided by the Affordable Care Act.