The National Girls Health and Justice Institute (NGHJI) and San Joaquin County Probation are on the threshold of a huge victory for California’s most vulnerable girls — incarcerated teen girls. On Friday, November 14, 2014, the Girls Health Screen (GHS) questionnaire was successfully tested inside the Stockton/San Joaquin Detention center holding girls. The GHS is now installed on beautiful, girl-friendly touch screen iPads, so that for the first time, young girls can easily — and privately — identify their unique health needs and get the help they need as soon as possible after they are locked up.
The GHS is the only research-based health and mental health questionnaire in the nation specifically designed to identify the medical needs of teen girls 11-17 who enter locked detention centers — most of which are designed to meet the larger population of boys. There are over 50 locked juvenile facilities holding girls in California and 2,800 nationwide. We hope that San Joaquin County, together with Los Angeles County — where the GHS will be installed in early 2015 — will be trailblazers for improving the delivery of medical care to every girl in the California Juvenile Justice System.
Studies have shown that teen girls who get locked up are among the sickest in the US and that meeting their medical needs can not only help them — and their children — lead healthier lives but can also reduce the likelihood that will get arrested again by 72%. By helping girls we are helping keep California communities safer and healthier now and for future generations — since 20 % of young incarcerated girls are pregnant or parenting.
In just two weeks, the GHS will be fully activated. This means that every teen girls who is arrested and brought to the Stockton detention facility will answer our electronic GHS very soon after they enter. Their answers will trigger immediate health and trauma treatment, and will yield important information on the health and trauma needs of this hidden population of girls.
We are deeply grateful to San Joaquin County Probation, Health and Behavioral Health for recognizing the needs of its most vulnerable girls, and embracing the Girls Health Screen project. We also thank The California Endowment, the Sierra Health Foundation and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation for helping to make the Girls Health Screen possible.