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Juvenile court competency standards would include mental health treatment

Anita Patterson

Michigan lawmakers are expected to vote next week on two bills that would create a system to determine the mental competency of juveniles who break the law.

Some troubled children in Michigan don't have access to mental health services until they wind up in court.

The state Senate  bills would let a prosecutor or a juvenile's defense lawyer ask for a competency evaluation. A judge would also be able to order an evaluation.

Michelle Weemhoff is with the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.

She says children don't have the same rights to mental health treatment that many adults have.

"The parents have been telling me that they have been instructed by a mental health  provider to file charges against their own child in order to access mental health services that are only available when a youth is adjudicated in the court," Weemhoff says.

She says younger children have been coming into the court system more often over the past several years.

Weemhoff says there should be a standard system in place to insure that juveniles understand the charges against them.