Superintendents say new early warning program keeps kids out of court

Since the Early Warning System had such an impact, it's now part of the Mahoning County Juvenile Court

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s seen huge success in area schools and now it’s part of the Mahoning County Juvenile Court. The Early Warning System targets students that may be headed down the wrong path and gets them the help they need.

In Mahoning County, the program has had significant results. School superintendents say they’ve seen fewer charges sent to the courts and they’re encouraged by the results.

Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick smiled on as educators talked about the success of the Early Warning System.

“It’s truly about prevention and intervention,” said Joe Sherokee, CEO of Alta Care Group.

“A great example of shared services in our area,” said Campbell Schools Superintendent Matt Bowen.

“What an unbelievable opportunity we have now,” said Canfield Superintendent Alex Geordan.

The Early Warning System looks at grades, attendance and behavior so educators can help struggling students.

“So often, we, as educators, we’re not trained in social, emotional, mental health,” Bowen said. “This gives us an avenue to explore and it gives us — basically, we could pick up the phone, we could do a referral and now we have the supports in place.”

That support comes from Alta Behavioral Healthcare, the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board and the Mahoning County Juvenile Court.

“The 2016-17 school year saw a 76 percent reduction in the formal charges over the 2015-16 school year that were sent to the Juvenile Center,” said Jennifer Merritt, with Mahoning County High School.

The Early Warning System was made possible by a $600,000 grant from the Department of Justice. The funding for the program runs out this year but since it had such an impact, it’s now part of the Mahoning County Juvenile Court.

“People who were hired with the money now become court employees through the benefit of the county commissioners, who have now added them to our general fund,” Judge Dellick said.

She hopes this will keep more students out of her courtroom. She would also like to see more schools join the program.

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