Wraparound Milwaukee: Aiding Youth With Mental Health Needs
by Bruce Kamradt

Bruce Kamradt, MSW, is Director of the Children's Mental Health Services Division for Milwaukee County, the largest public provider and purchaser of children's mental health services in Milwaukee, WI. Over the past 5 years, the division has focused on a system of care to integrate mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, and education services for complex-needs children and their families.
The estimated percentage of youth with mental health disorders in the juvenile justice system varies from study to study. Estimates of diagnosable mental health disorders among the general population run about 20 percent. While there are no reliable national studies of the prevalence of mental health disorders among juvenile offenders, estimates from existing studies indicate that the rate for mental health disorders among juvenile offenders may be as high as 60 percent, of which an estimated 20 percent have severe mental health disorders (Cocozza, 1992).

Finding effective treatment models for youth in the juvenile justice system with serious emotional, mental health, and behavioral needs can be difficult. Systems tend to use more traditional residential and day treatment programs to serve these youth. The traditional categorical approach that the juvenile justice, child welfare, and mental health systems often use places youth in a "one-size-fits-all" program, regardless of the youth's needs.

Wraparound Milwaukee, now in its fifth year of operation, takes a quite different approach to serving youth with mental health needs. The program serves more than 650 youth, 400 of whom are adjudicated delinquent. Created under a Center for Mental Health Services grant, Wraparound Milwaukee sustains itself by pooling dollars with its systems partners and taking an integrated, multiservice approach to meeting the needs of youth and their families. This approach, which is based on the Wraparound philosophy and the managed care model, offers care that is tailored to each youth. Data indicate that the program is achieving positive outcomes.

Juvenile Justice - Youth With Mental Health Disorders:
Issues and Emerging Responses
April 2000,
Volume VII · Number 1