Hidalgo, Texas (KVEO)-A Hidalgo County juvenile judge has made history by launching a new mental health and drug prevention program.
449th district judge Rennee Rodriguez announced the approval of two new courts this month, the Hidalgo County drug court and ‘LIFELINE,’ an all-girls mental health court.
“Data has shown that minorities such as Hispanics, African Americans are more prone to falling into addiction, are more prone to mental health diagnosis,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said these courts will put together a team of drug and mental health counselors in hopes of preventing juveniles from serving time.
“I felt that kids could be serviced—could have more options to be provided different services that would help to rehabilitate them instead of send them away to a private or public institution for juveniles,” said Rodriguez.
She said juveniles sentencings for drug offenses were at the same rate as Bexar County, a county twice as large than Hidalgo.
“You know—yes I think in the Rio Grande Valley, in Hidalgo County, and living so close to the border I think the children—the juveniles are more prone to addiction.” said Rodrigez.
She also found female juvenile offenders being charged for the same offenses.
“This mental health court is more of a self-esteem, encouraging, does focused on mental health and just gives them those tools that are needed so that they understand they don’t need to find themselves in certain situations,” said Rodriguez.
The program costs anywhere between $150 and $250. The same amount it takes a day to detain a juvenile offender, money that could be used towards rehabilitation, according to Rodriguez.
In 2021, she plans to have a team assembled for these courts to impact the youth in her community.