Justice News

Associate Attorney General Tony West Delivers Remarks at the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council
United States
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Once again, it’s a pleasure to be here today among so many good friends, expert panelists, and distinguished colleagues. And it’s a privilege to join you all in welcoming Karol Mason back to the Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs.

Many of us first got to know Karol in her previous capacity as the Justice Department’s Deputy Associate Attorney General, where, among her many accomplishments, she led the Defending Childhood Initiative and helped to create the Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.  It’s a pleasure to have her here in her new role today.

As you know, this Council has focused its attention at recent meetings on the findings and recommendations of the Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.  At this time, I am pleased to announce the creation of a Council subcommittee, made up of cross-agency representatives, that will be dedicated to implementing those recommendations—from aligning federal programs aimed at violence reduction and intervention, to supporting identification and treatment methods through cross-agency grant funds and the Affordable Care Act. 

We also envision that this subcommittee will consider the findings and recommendations made in recent National Academy of Sciences reports addressing juvenile justice reform and domestic child sex trafficking – to identify ways in which agencies that make up the Coordinating Council can respond.Now, this subcommittee represents an important step forward—but it cannot succeed without your involvement and your input.  We have spoken with several Council members about this subcommittee prior to today’s meeting, and we are eager to continue those conversations in the days ahead—to ensure that we have the benefit of your knowledge, your passion, and your experience in addressing these important issues. 

One of the most critical questions for the days ahead involves the most effective way to bring the benefits of the Affordable Care Act to our nation’s vulnerable youth.  I want to thank our HHS partners and our panelists for their invaluable contributions to the development of this meeting, and for their willingness to share their expert insights on the Affordable Care Act with the Council.

We have a compelling story to tell.  The Affordable Care Act provides health care consumers, including children and young adults, with the strongest set of protections in this nation’s history. 

Because of the Affordable Care Act, 17 million children can no longer be denied insurance because of a preexisting condition like depression, childhood cancer, or bi-polar disorder.  Over 13 million uninsured children and young adults, from newborns to 25 year olds, may be eligible for coverage through the Marketplace, Medicaid, or Child Health Insurance Program that includes pediatric oral and vision care, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment, as well as free preventative health services from flu shots to behavioral assessments. In addition, more than 3.1 million young people from ages 19 to 25 are now covered because they can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plans.  This is a critical age when behavioral health issues are likely to emerge. 

The Affordable Care Act will improve parents’ health care coverage and care, making them more likely to cover their children, more likely to get preventive care for their families, and more likely to have the resources they need to invest in better nutrition, safer living spaces, and everything else that we know contributes to their children's health and well-being. These are critical steps forward for all Americans.  But for at-risk and vulnerable populations, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act will be particularly important.

Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will extend Medicaid coverage up to age 26 for young people across the country who have aged out of the foster care system, giving these men and women as young as 18 health security and access to the critical services they need.The health care law provides Medicaid coverage for all children with family incomes up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, ensuring that children in low-income families won’t get left behind when they get sick.

And perhaps most importantly, the Affordable Care Act provides for expanded school-based health services, community-based health programs, and Medicaid expansion that has potential to significantly improve the quality of health care services to youth at risk of violence or who become involved with juvenile and criminal justice systems. 

Now, this is a critical point not only for participants in this meeting, but for this country’s understanding of the way in which the Affordable Care Act can make a real and positive difference in every community and in every life.

Today, the majority of America’s children—more than 60 percent of our young boys and girls—have been exposed to crime, violence, and abuse.  That is a staggering figure with devastating implications – and direct consequences. 

Like many of you, I have seen the impact that violence can have on young people, on their families, and on those who love them. 
Whether they are victims or witnesses, young people who are exposed to violence suffer a range of consequences that have the potential to cause long-term and irrevocable physical and psychological harm.  They are more likely to turn to drug or alcohol abuse later in life, to fail in school, and to suffer from post-traumatic disorders like anxiety and depression.  They are more likely to develop chronic illnesses and have difficulty forming emotional attachments.  And they are more likely to continue the cycle of violence by harming others.

For at-risk young people—and particularly those affected by violence—the services provided by the Affordable Care Act represent more than an insurance policy; they are a lifeline.  They are the tools of prevention and reorientation that can mean the difference between a life of fulfillment, and one that perpetuates a cycle of trauma and violence.

As you will hear today, this Administration is working diligently to implement the Affordable Care Act.  The Council can play a critical role in disseminating information about the Affordable Care Act and its implementation to stakeholders who address the needs of youth and young adults across the country. 
October 1st marked the beginning of a six-month long open enrollment period in the marketplace that runs through March 2014.  Coverage begins as early as January 1, 2014. While today’s meeting is an important start, I ask that you all continue your collective efforts during this period to examine how implementation of the Affordable Care Act can be integrated into existing agency activities and promising, evidence-based programs that serve young people. 

I urge us to inform youth and their families, as well as youth service providers, about the Affordable Care Act to enhance youth and families’ access to affordable, quality health care.  I recognize that this work will not always be easy.  There will be challenges and difficult days ahead.  But by your presence here today—and by the work you have already done—all of you are proving that, despite the obstacles we face, we will be able to continue to make the positive changes that America’s young people—our young people—need and deserve.
Thank you again for your work, your insights, and your dedication to this cause.  I look forward to all that we will accomplish together in the months and years ahead.  

And with that, I will turn the floor over to Bob Listenbee for formal introductions of Council members and panelists. 

Updated September 17, 2014