The Niagara Youth Court Screening Initiative (NYCSI) is a collaborative community initiative that was launched at St. Catharines Youth Court in May 2015. The initiative came out of the work of the Niagara Youth Justice Collaborative and was guided by:

  • Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy;
  • A focus on improved connections and coordination of services at key transition points between health, human services and the justice system and;
  • A need to improve integration and collaboration between sectors working with justice-involved youth who have mental health and/or addiction concerns. The Youth Justice Collaborative was community-led, multi-sectoral, health equity-focused, and action-orientated.

A team of service providers from across the Niagara region are present at Youth Court sessions to identify the needs of First Appearance youth in the areas of mental health, addictions and basic needs, e.g. employment, education, housing).

The NYCSI Screening Team consists of representatives from:

  • Youth Resources Niagara
  • Pathstone Mental Health, including the Early Intervention Program and the Extrajudicial Sanctions (EJS) program
  • Port Cares, Youth Justice Committee Program (EJS)
  • Niagara Chapter of Native Women Inc.
  • Youth Probation

This is not a diversion initiative. A youth’s participation in NYCSI is voluntary and the youth’s criminal charges are not discussed. Rather, the NYCSI Screening Team conducts screening and refers as appropriate to community partners:

  • Youth who are identified as having mental health or addictions needs are eligible for intake to Pathstone’s Early Intervention Program (EIP);
  • Youth who do not have mental health or addictions needs but may need or want other support (e.g., housing) are referred to appropriate community services;
  • Youth flagged by the Screening Crown for diversion are directed to an EJS Program;
  • Youth who self-identify as having First Nation, Inuit or Métis heritage are offered specialized screening services, as are youth who prefer screening in French.

In alignment with the Niagara Mental Health and Addictions Charter, the work of the Niagara Youth Justice Collaborative facilitates early detection of mental illness and addictions for justice-involved youth; collaboration amongst providers from different sectors; and a commitment to individual and family-centred care by assessing client needs and preferences, supporting system navigation, and customizing pathways to relevant services. In addition, through partnerships, communication and collaboration, community partners are aligning resources to reduce duplication, and have committed to ongoing improvement and accountability by developing a database to collect and measure results, and support analysis of the quality of the initiative and evolving needs of the community.

As of March 31, 2016, the NYCSI Screening Team has attended 19 Youth Court sessions and screened 63 First Appearance youth. Progress continues to be made on a database being developed to support data collection relating to NYCSI.

To learn more go to Niagara Youth Court Screening Initiative (NYCSI) Community Engagement

Mike Taylor
Executive Director
Youth Resources Niagara

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