By Kieran K. Meadows
Officials from the city Department of Juvenile Justice said they would have to make tough budget choices, as a result of impending state and city cuts, when they testified Wednesday at a hearing held by the City Council committee that has oversight over the agency.
One of the more controversial moves the department plans to make is to eliminate its discharge planning staff.
Discharge planning’s focus had been helping youth with serious health and mental health needs make the transition home from detention more seamless, by connecting them with community organizations and other support networks.
The agency plans to combine its discharge planning service into its case management system.
The chairwoman of the Committee on Juvenile Justice, Sara M. Gonzalez, asked agency officials to explain how the integration of the two units would benefit youth in the department’s custody.
Nina Aledort, the department’s assistant commissioner for program services, said that many parents get confused when they receive phone calls from too many different people.
“By incorporating the discharge planning responsibilities—none of which will go away—the parent will have a single point of contact,” Aledort said. “A person who knows how the person is doing day-to-day in detention will also be able to work with the young person about how and what they might need when they return to the outside. It’s much more coordinated, really, is how we see it,” she said.
However, the addition of discharge planning responsibilities would place more pressure on case management staff, juvenile justice advocates said.