Juvenile Justice Behavioral Health Research Team

The UCSF Juvenile Justice Behavioral Health (JJBH) Research Team includes a program of research aimed toward improving behavioral health outcomes for justice-involved youth. Studies include emphasis on improving juvenile justice youths’ physical, mental, and emotional health, reducing drug and alcohol use, reducing HIV/STI risk behaviors, preventing recidivism, and identifying ways to improve access to and engagement in health care for these youth, thereby improving health disparities.

The JJBH team is currently comprised of:

Below are brief descriptions of our ongoing National Institute of Health projects.


The VOICES Project is funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA; R01DA035231). It is a five-year study of the efficacy of a gender responsive, trauma-informed substance use intervention for girls and young women who are at risk to be or are already involved with the justice system. Developed by Stephanie Covington, PhD, LCSW, the VOICES program aims to address the unique needs of adolescent girls and young women, providing them with a safe space, support, and tools for self-empowerment. The study includes conducting a randomized controlled trial with 200 justice-involved duets to test the efficacy of the VOICES program in reducing substance use and HIV/STI risk behaviors compared to treatment as usual. It is currently underway in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Project emPOWER’D (Promotion Of Ways to Reduce Reproductive Disparities) is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHO; R21HD082330). This project is a multi-part, systems-level research study that has three specific aims. First, through in-depth interviews with juvenile justice and public health staff throughout the United States, the project seeks to obtain a detailed, qualitative understanding of the facilitators and barriers to the provision of sexual and reproductive health services for court- involved, non-incarcerated (CINI) youth. Second, using a nationwide survey of juvenile justice and public health staff, the project aims to identify larger patterns of policy and system level factors that enable or hinder the development and implementation of policies and programs to improve the sexual and reproductive health of CINI youth. Lastly, results from both the qualitative interviews and nationwide survey will be disseminated to advance structural intervention and policy development.


Project EPICC (Epidemiological Project Involving Children in the Court) is funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA; R01DA034538). The purpose of Project EPICC is to learn more about substance use, HIV/STI risk behavior, psychiatric symptom, and legal outcome trajectories of first-time offending, court-involved, non-incarcerated juveniles in the northeastern region of the United States. To do this, Project EPICC is following 400 dyads (juvenile and a caregiver/parent) over 24 months to complete a computerized assessment (every four months) of adolescent risk behaviors and family, community, neighborhood, and cultural factors that can impact their short and long-term outcomes. Information collected from the project will help guide the development of early public health interventions for court-involved juveniles at their first point of contact with the juvenile court system.