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Human Services Department inks IGA to begin work to understand, better serve the youth of Scottsdale

Photo of Scottsdale Councilwoman Betty Janik
Scottsdale Councilwoman Betty Janik during a public hearing at City Hall earlier this summer.
(Photo: Arianna Grainey/

Scottsdale fellowship program emerges at City Hall

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Scottsdale is entering into an intergovernmental agreement with Maricopa County to understand better the underlying issues of juvenile delinquency and misbehavior sometimes resulting in arrest.

What started as a diversion program of sorts for young adults is blossoming into a two-year fellowship program seeking to create an accurate needs assessment of the youth of the community, according to Scottsdale Human Services Director Greg Bestgen.

“In March of 1986, an outside consultant recommended to the Scottsdale City Council the implementation of a juvenile diversion program to divert youth from the juvenile justice system and to promote law-abiding behavior,” he said in a Sept. 20 report to City Council. “Youth and Family Services was created to run this program.”

Mr. Bestgen explains following a collaborative approach with community institutions the program continues to be effective.

“YFS has since created several adolescent programs that have included such programs as the Restorative Justice Program,” he said. “In 2016, after a yearlong collaboration with the Scottsdale Police Department, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and Scottsdale Unified School District — RJIP was implemented.”

The focus of the programs part of the IGA between the municipality of Scottsdale and Maricopa County is to create an accurate needs assessment of at-risk youth in Scottsdale. In years past, it was primarily avoidance of a court record.

“This program was meant to have youth avoid going to court and being directly referred to YFS by the police department. Involvement in this program results in youth avoiding an arrest or court record, and police contact record being removed one year later after completing RJIP program requirements,” Mr. Bestgen explained. “The purpose of this program is to avoid harming a teens future with a criminal record because of a mistake in their adolescent years. RJIP is one of the few programs of its kind in the United States.”

While those programs have proven beneficial, Mr. Bestgen explains, he reports it is now time to understand what underscores these issues.

“It has become more prevalent that an accurate needs assessment is vital to determine ways in which we can support our youth,” he said. “In an attempt to better understand these concerns, it became apparent that an outside body could provide beneficial results given their talents, training and skill set.”

Funding for the position during the implementation stage will be shouldered by Maricopa County, but city officials say future funding requests may arise as the fellowship program grows.

Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved moving forward with the IGA at its Sept. 20 meeting at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

Program to include mental health services and psychoeducational classes

Part of the agreement is the development and installation of a two-year fellowship program offering mental health services and psychoeducational classes.

“We strive to be aware of adolescent trends and concerning issues related to mental health and substance misuse,” Mr. Bestgen wrote of his colleagues’ part of the Scottsdale Human Services umbrella. “We will accomplish these efforts by engaging in a fellowship program with the Maricopa County Public Health Office of Performance Improvement.”

Mr. Bestgen explains the fellowship program will be administered by Maricopa County Public Health.

“The fellowship program will assign a master’s level graduate with a passion for creating change regarding mental health and substance misuse on an individual, community and societal level,” he pointed out. “The fellow will in-turn gain exposure to city and county government operations and learn how to build effective working relationships between the county and city entities. “

The fellowship program will help to lay the foundation for communicating better the needs of key stakeholders within the Scottsdale community.

“Youth and Family Services will establish an infrastructure that will enhance communication with key stakeholders who could assist and identify data that will produce accurate results and better program implementation,” Mr. Bestgen told City Council in his report. “[The] assigned fellow will work with various entities to gain exposure, statistical data and personal experience from those professionals in the field working directly with this population.”

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