Juveniles with mental illnesses in Tuolumne County will be getting some additional support thanks to a $262,370 grant through the California Board of State and Community Corrections.

Thirty-one percent of juveniles on formal probation in the county have been diagnosed with mental illness and 14 percent are awaiting diagnosis, according to the Tuolumne County Probation Department, which oversees supervision of juvenile offenders.

The recently approved Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant will be used to provide after-school tutoring, a crisis home and part-time family juvenile therapist, Probation Chief Adele Arnold told the county Board of Supervisors at Tuesday's meeting.

"What we have found is that oftentimes if we could just provide some very intense supervision and crisis intervention early on, it may save somebody from having to go the distance to be detained in juvenile hall," she said.

According to the probation department, 159 days spent in juvenile hall over the past 12 months by juveniles from the county could have been diverted to a crisis home.

The department applied for the grant in April.

Arnold said the county's request initially received partial funding until one of the other counties that was awarded a grant dropped out.

"Congratulations on staying with this," said District 1 Supervisor Sherri Brennan. "Persistence has paid off."

The county's "in-kind" funding match will largely come from the use of resources and staff to oversee the programs.

Approximately $35,000 annually over the next three years will cover the salary of the part-time family therapist, who will coordinate grant-funded individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, stabilization and assessment.

The therapist position was previously budgeted as part of the staffing for the county's Mother Lode Regional Juvenile Detention Facility that's currently under construction off Old Wards Ferry Road in Sonora.

Arnold said the grant will allow the department to hire the part-time therapist earlier than expected.

Another $25,000 will be used to purchase a vehicle dedicated to transporting juveniles in the program to and from school, appointments, counseling and after-school tutoring.

About $8,300 per year will be used to contract with a crisis home, while about $1,700 would come from the county's general fund and other related grants. The home will include two beds, 365 days a year, as an alternative to juvenile hall when needed.

The board unanimously accepted the grant at Tuesday's meeting.

The Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office also applied for a similar grant to provide services for adult offenders with mental illnesses but was not awarded the funding.

However, Sheriff Jim Mele said his office was excited about the probation department's grant.

"It will be great for the county, it will be great for probation and, most importantly, it will be great for our juvenile mentally-ill offenders," he said.

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