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Baylor professor receives $3.1M grant to help women in juvenile justice system

Empty Jail Cell
Posted at 11:53 AM, Aug 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 12:53:24-04

WACO, Texas — A Baylor University professor is putting her boots on the ground to get young women in the juvenile system back on the right track.

"I hope that this work that we're doing will help empower these youth to meet the goals and the hopes and the dreams that they have in their life. I want to do work that's meaningful, practical and that will actually once you do the research help this population"says Dr. Danielle Parrish, a professor of social work with Baylor University's Houston campus

Dr. Parrish was awarded a $3.1 million grant to test intervention methods for 14-to-17-year-old women who are at higher risk for alcohol and drug abuse, as well as sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy

"This particular population has really flown under the radar in our society for many years, and we've known this for several decades, but despite this there have been very few interventions that have been shown to work, and be effective and help and address their needs" says Dr. Parrish.

According to the Texas Juvenile Department, about 806 new youth go into the system every year, 9% are female.

Overall, among both male and females, 31% need sex treatment, 53% need help with mental health, and 90% need treatment for drugs or alcohol.

"I was hearing the stories of these young women and they had a lot complex needs that were not being addressed. It was always provided in silos, like substance abuse prevention here, pregnancy prevention here, mental health here, family services here, ,but nothing that was more comprehensive that really engaged them and helped them to get better." says Dr. Parrish.

Dr. Parish says this intervention method is currently in use for women, and it will be an adaptation for adolescent women, and making it more accessible by using technology such as telehealth and mobile health applications.

"I think my message would be that there are people that care about your well-being, there are people that care about your health and your safety and believe that you have a very bright future ahead of you." says Dr. Parrish

The project will run for 5 years, in that time she hopes to enroll enough young women to participate.

If it's successful Dr. Parish hopes it becomes a standard practice in the juvenile system.