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Families of Youth with Substance Use Disorders: A National Dialogue
by BENJAMIN CHAMBERS

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_national-family-dialogue-report-coverReclaiming Futures just sponsored a webinar by Dr. Howard Liddle on the clinical importance of working with the families of teens in the justice system as well as the young people themselves -- follow the link to listen to the webinar or download the slides -- but family involvement is critical in other areas as well, from program planning to policy-making. 

And as it happens, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is seeking comments on its proposed changes to its block grants (including target populations) -- comments are due this Friday, June 3, 2011 -- so it seems like a good time to remind everyone that in 2009, SAMHSA convened a group of family members from all across the country to look at barriers to their involvement, opportunities for change, and to make recommendations for improvement. 

The result was a June 2010 report titled, Families of Youth with Substance Use Disorders: A National Dialogue.* It covered a lot of ground, and I can't hope to gloss it all here, but here's a few (selected) items from the barriers family members experienced:

  • Lack of public knowledge on the impact of adolescent alcohol and drug use/dependence on youth and their family members;
  • Difficulty in accessing available, appropriate, affordable and comprehensive treatment;
  • Lack of recovery services and supports; and
  • Lack of family peer education advocacy, and supports.

Remarkably, however, they also listed a few strengths that family members had:

  • Determination to break the cycle of addiction within families;
  • Commitment to get involved to improve the quality of care and the outcomes of treatment and recovery; and
  • Hope to improve the health and well-being of families and communities across the United States.

Some next steps they recommended (and again, I'm picking things out of a longer list):

  •  Develop a clearinghouse of information for parents;
  • Provide funds to support planning and implementing opportunities for family involvement at the practice, program, and policy levels;
  • Help families to "make the case" for significant additional public resources to provide more treatment and recovery services and supports;
  • Require Tribes/States to support family organizations and to include family members in policy development.

It's a document worth studying - if you haven't seen it already, I encourage you to download it, read it, and pass it on to others. One can only hope this report will be the first of many.

 

*The report was prepared by Doreen Cavanaugh of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute; Sharon Smith of MOMSTELL; Shannon CrossBear of the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health; Steve Hornberger of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics; and Catherine Kelley, of the Georgetown University Healthy Policy Institute. 

 

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