Overview—Substance use and substance use disorders are highly prevalent among youth under juvenile justice (JJ) supervision, and related to delinquency, psychopathology, social problems, risky sex and sexually transmitted infections, and health problems. However, numerous gaps exist in the identification of behavioral health (BH) problems and in the subsequent referral, initiation and retention in treatment for youth in community justice settings. This reflects both organizational and systems factors, including coordination between justice and BH agencies.

Methods and Results—This paper presents a new framework, the Juvenile Justice Behavioral Health Services Cascade (“Cascade”), for measuring unmet substance use treatment needs to illustrate how the cascade approach can be useful in understanding service delivery issues and identifying strategies to improve treatment engagement and outcomes for youth under community JJ supervision. We discuss the organizational and systems barriers for linking delinquent youth to BH services, and explain how the Cascade can help understand and address these barriers. We provide a detailed description of the sequential steps and measures of the Cascade, and then offer an example of its application from the Juvenile Justice – Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System project (JJ-TRIALS), a multi-site research cooperative funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Conclusion—As illustrated with substance abuse treatment, the Cascade has potential for informing and guiding efforts to improve behavioral health service linkages for adolescent offenders, developing and testing interventions and policies to improve interagency and cross-systems coordination, and informing the development of measures and interventions for improving the implementation of treatment in complex multisystem service settings.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, v. 74, p. 80-91.

© 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

This manuscript version is made available under the CC‐BY‐NC‐ND 4.0 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

The document available for download is the author's post-peer-review final draft of the article.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This study was funded under the Juvenile Justice Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System project (JJ-TRIALS) cooperative agreement, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH). The authors gratefully acknowledge the collaborative contributions of NIDA and support from the following grant awards: Chestnut Health Systems (U01DA036221); Columbia University (U01DA036226); Emory University (U01DA036233); Mississippi State University (U01DA036176); Temple University (U01DA036225); Texas Christian University (U01DA036224); and University of Kentucky (U01DA036158).