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Posted: Monday, February 24th, 2014 1:14 PM HST

Hawaii lawmakers consider bills for at-risk youth

By Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) Judge R. Mark Browning says four of every five teens who appear in his family court abuse some sort of substance: alcohol, cocaine, heroin, cold medicine or gasoline.

Hawaii courts process about 7,000 young people each year, and Browning's math means about 5,600 of them are using some illicit substance. But Browning says there are only 60 slots in its juvenile drug court, and the state can barely begin to offer suitable services to them.

Browning testified Friday before the House Finance Committee in support of House Bill 2659, a measure that would provide mental health and substance abuse treatment for juveniles in the court system.

He says such programs would likely prevent many young people from winding up in trouble later. He says half of first-time arrestees in Hawaii are of middle-school age.

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