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NAMI Dane County invites public to discuss mental health in the juvenile justice system

MADISON, Wis. - Community officials are working to decriminalize mental illnesses within the juvenile justice system, which they discussed through a public forum Thursday through National Alliance on Mental Illness Dane County.

Speakers said they're working on creating better intervention and prevention methods to resolve issues such as violence. 

"Our mental health system has a lot of catching up to do," NAMI Dane County Executive Director Anna Moffit said. "We're really in a place of crisis. I would say perhaps 50% of youth that are experiencing mental health illnesses are actually able to access services, so we're way behind the curve."

Panelists like Carlin Becker, a police officer within the Madison Police Department's mental health unit, said there is a great need for mental health services. 

"Prevention is the key," Becker said. 

She said there are issues in the system that families can't get past, which makes it difficult to make any progress.

Speakers said they're working to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental illnesses, especially for youth. They also said they're making sure to ask what families need for their loved ones. 

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