Blog: Adolescent Mental Health

Join SAMHSA Recovery Month for "Twitter Chat" on Recovery

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_national-recovery-month-logoThe Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Recovery Month is hosting its third Twitter chat to help spread the word that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.
The September #RecoveryChat will focus on celebrating Recovery Month and will be co-hosted by Dr. Westley Clark, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, and Kathryn Power, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The chat will be held on Monday, September 12 from 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm PST / 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EST.
Join the Twitter chat by asking questions and contributing to the dialogue about Recovery Month and substance use and mental health disorders by using the designated hashtag #RecoveryChat to track and participate in the conversation. By adding #RecoveryChat to the end of each tweet, you signify your involvement in the conversation. Also, be sure to tune in 15 minutes early for our first Twitterview with our expert co-hosts!
SAMHSA/CSAT also encourages you to share your stories about planning or attending Recovery Month events, key learnings of what worked or what didn’t work for you or others in recovery, or other similar topics. During the chat, we are looking to not only answer questions, but also to raise awareness of the importance of prevention, the effectiveness of treatment, and the reality of recovery.
Not available for the chat? Tweet your questions to @RecoveryMonth in advance, using the hashtag #RecoveryChat. If you aren’t on Twitter, but are interested in asking a question, feel free to post questions on the Recovery Month Facebook Page or send questions in an email to
[Reprinted from a SAMHSA press release with minor changes.]

States Save Millions by Downsizing & Closing Juvenile Prisons (and More) -- News Roundup

  • Report: Tribal Youth in the Federal Justice System
    Cosponsored by OJJDP and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, this report is now available online. The report describes findings from a study that explored issues surrounding American Indian youth who are processed in the federal justice system, and discusses the prevalence, characteristics, and outcomes at each stage of the justice system.
  • From PBS: Stats and Facts on Juveniles Tried as Adults
    Evidence that deterrent effects are minimal or nonexistent, and that, trying juveniles in criminal court may result in higher rates of reoffending.
  • Juvenile Offender Becomes Advocate for Youth At-Risk
    Starcia Ague helped push through a law in the state of Washington that allows Class A juvenile felony records to be sealed, at the discretion of the judge, as long as youth have a clean record for five years after their release.

The Effects of Drug Testing in Schools (and More) -- News Roundup

  • Health and Human Services Awards $40 million
    Grants were awarded to 39 state agencies, community health centers, school-based organizations and non-profit groups in 23 states for efforts to identify and enroll children eligible for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. (Hat tip to Rob Vincent.)
  • Study Finds Drug Testing in Schools Has Only Small Effect in Reducing Substance Use
    “This study sends a cautionary note to the estimated 20 percent or more of high schools that have joined the drug testing bandwagon,” study co-author Dan Romer said in a news release. “We find little evidence that this approach to minimizing teen drug use is having the deterrent effect its proponents claim.”
  • Fact Sheet: Understanding Child Welfare and the Courts
    Families involved with the child welfare system may have some involvement with the court—in most States, this occurs in a family or juvenile court. This fact sheet is designed to serve as a quick guide to the general types of court hearings that a family may experience, and it traces the steps of a child welfare case through the court system. (H/t Paul Savery.)

Poll: Drug Abuse a Top Health Concern for Kids (and More) -- News Roundup

  • Selecting and Implementing Evidence-Based Practices
    Treatment funding is being increasingly tied to outcomes, a trend expected to continue as the integration of behavioral health with primary care moves forward in the context of healthcare reform. Learn more from the Addiction Technology Transfer Center of New England about achieving desired client outcomes in part 2 of a 3-part series.
  • Poll: Drug Abuse Equals Childhood Obesity as Top Health Concern for Kids
    On Aug. 15th, the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital released the results of its 5th annual national poll, in which Americans rated drug abuse and childhood obesity as the number one health concern for our nation’s youth. This is important news because it shows that drug abuse is now on the radar screens of people throughout the country and that Americans are very concerned about this issue. Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America issues a statement in response. (Hat tip to Christa Myers.)

Apply Now: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Learning Collaborative

juvenile-justice-system_pensive-youth"Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (AF-CBT) is an evidence-based intervention for children and families whose level of conflict, coercion, and aggression have resulted in or placed them at-risk for physical abuse or related safety concerns," writes Paul Savery.
He also forwarded the following: 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network is pleased to release the 2011–2012 Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (AF-CBT) Learning Collaborative Information and Application Packet. AF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment designed to improve the relationships between children and their caregivers. AF-CBT addresses concerns such as harsh physical discipline/punishment as well as child/family aggression and family interactions characterized by hostile interactions and conflict.  
The Information packet contains critical information to help you and your organization understand the benefits of participating in the 2011-20112 AF_CBT Learning Collaborative. All interested in participating should thoroughly read the attached Information Packet and follow the directions included for submitting the Notification of Interest (by Monday, August 22, 2011) and the Online Application (by Friday, September 2, 2011).

You can learn more on the NCTSN website. If you have further questions, please contact Lauren Simone at
Hurry! Note that deadline for the NOI: Monday, August 22, 2011!

2011 Recovery Month Toolkit Now Available from SAMHSA

As we’ve previously discussed, Recovery Month is celebrated each September to help promote the societal benefits of treatment for mental and substance use disorders, celebrate people in recovery, laud the contributions of treatment providers, and promote the message that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.
As part of Recovery Month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) develops a toolkit every year with educational materials and tools to help individuals and organizations plan events to celebrate Recovery Month. The toolkit is broken down into sections by audience and types of resources.
The 2011 theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Recovery Benefits Everyone,” showcases how public awareness will increase access to those in need of essential substance use and mental health services and how legislative changes will improve the overall health and well-being of people in the United States.
The toolkit also covers mental health problems and substance use disorders of adolescent and young adults. According to SAMHSA’s 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 2 million 12 through 17-year-olds needed treatment for a substance use disorder in 2009. A survey conducted by the National Health and Nutritional Examination found that 13 percent of children ages 8 to 15 had at least one mental health problem, a rate comparable to diabetes, asthma, and other diseases. As a result, the toolkit has useful information, such as warning signs of a developing substance use disorder and symptoms of mental health problems -- it also provides a wide range of resources, which can be narrowed to only show youth programs.
If you are interested in more information, the SAMHSA Recovery Month toolkit is available online and in hard copy. For other information about Recovery Month, please visit our website and become a fan of the Facebook Page, or follow us on Twitter.

Michele Monroe is a Public Health Analyst for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Save the Date: Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) 2012

The next Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) -- the only national conference solely devoted to adolescent substance abuse treatment -- has been scheduled for April 10-12, 2012, in Washington, D.C. 
Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the nearly-annual conference is a fantastic opportunity to see top-notch presentations on ... well, you can check out the 2010 JMATE agenda here to get an idea.
There's no agenda yet for the 2012 event, but take it from me, you don't want to miss it. 
Want to be notified when you can register? Send your email to
Want to participate in the 2012 JMATE planning committees? Contact

UPDATED and Still URGENT: Support SAMHSA in Making Teens a Priority in Block Grants

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_megaphoneIf you care about adolescent substance abuse treatment (and mental health treatment), this is really important.
As I posted recently, SAMHSA is proposing big changes to its mental health and alcohol and drug treatment block grants. They want your comments by this Friday, June 3, 2011 June 9, 2011.
Ho-hum, right?
Far from it. We need you and everyone you know to submit comments to support SAMHSA's inclusion of adolescents/youth as a target population by Friday (see below for a draft message you can use or adapt).

>>Submit your email comments to SAMHSA the easy way, using this action alert from sparkaction.

UPDATED: SAMHSA Changes Substance Abuse and Mental Health Block Grants - Your Comments (Still) Needed!

SAMHSA has revamped its block grant applications for substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment services. You can submit comments by emailing Summer King, SAMHSA Reports Clearance Officer on or before June 9, 2011. [We were incorrectly informed June 3rd was the deadline.]
What are the proposed changes?  Here's the SAMHSA press release (with minor edits):
adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_pointerSAMHSA Introduces Guidance Changing Its Block Grant Programs to Reflect New Opportunities Provided by Parity, Health Reform and Emerging Science
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced a new approach for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) and the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) in the April 11, 2011 Federal Register.

Under this new approach states and territories will have the opportunity to use block grant dollars for prevention, treatment, recovery supports and other services that supplement services covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance. The block grant funds will be directed to four purposes:

Computer-Based Treatment Outperforms Treatment As Usual - And More: A Roundup

  • adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_old-TVTaking the "Anonymous" out of A.A.
    Increasingly, adults in Alcoholics Anonymous are coming out of the closet and talking about their addiction and their membership in A.A. Is this a healthy sign that the stigma around addiction is decreasing, or does it threaten something that's critical to recovery -- and does all this look different when it comes to teens? Leave a comment below.
  • Computer-Based Interventions for Drug-Use Disorders: a Systematic Review According to a research survey published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, "Compared to treatment-as-usual, computer-based interventions led to less substance use and higher motivation to change, better retention, and greater knowledge of presented information. Computer-based interventions for drug use disorders have the potential to dramatically expand and alter the landscape of treatment." (Hat tip to Paul Savery.)

Social Inclusion for People in Recovery: Innovative Community Programs (Teleconference)

adolescent-mental-health_two-people-separated-by-chasmMost people need to feel included -- for young people in recovery from alcohol and drug use or living with mental health issues, it's critical for them to feel that they can contribute to their communities. 
But how can your community promote this? Check out this free teleconference from SAMHSA's Resource Center to Promote Acceptance, Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with Mental Health (ADS Center).  It will be held May 9, 2011, from 12pm-1:30pm PST / 3pm-4:30pm EST.
In the spotlight will be three innovative programs "that are improving lives, changing communities, and transforming systems through social inclusion practices." Here are the details, quoted from the press release:

Building Great Behavioral Health Care Organizations in a New Environment: Conference

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_niatx-saas-conference-graphicBehavioral health care organizations -- including adolescent substance abuse treatment agencies -- face huge changes as health reform takes hold. How do you build a strong, vital organization that provides the best quality care?
We've built a conference around that very question: the 2011 NIATx Summit and SAAS National Conference, with the theme of "Revolutionary Strategies for Leaders." It'll be held July 20-13, 2011, in Boston, MA. (Don't know NIATx or SAAS? Scroll down for more info.)
Who should attend? CEOs, senior managers, and change leaders from behavioral health organizations who are focused on leadership, process improvement, and technology.

Is Medicaid Irrelevant? - Weekly Roundup

  • juvenile-justice-reform_state-trends-coverLegislative Victories Removing Youth from Adult Criminal Justice System
    The Campaign for Youth Justice released a report on the growing number of states changing their policies to keep more kids out of adult lockup.
  • Hardin County, OH Embraces Reclaiming Futures
    Reclaiming Futures Hardin County got great coverage in the March 26, 2011 issue of the Kenton Times. Random quotes: Scott Mitchell, treatment court graduate, said, “I did a complete 180." Judge James Rapp: "If we are there for [the kids], they will be successful.” Follow the link to learn more.
  • Do it YO Way - Mentors Guide Youth in Bristol County, MA
    After receiving training in anti-oppressive practices (follow link and scroll to find webinars, PowerPoints, and other resources), the Reclaiming Futures Bristol County team "developed 'YO', a pilot program which exposed seven young men from diverse ethnic backgrounds to the practices of oppressiveness and privilege."

    In an intense, 12-week program, they worked with adult mentors on "how to be successful in the face of the challenges they face in their daily lives."

    As Deirdre Lopes, director of the H.O.P.E. (Healthy Opportunities for Peaceful Engagement) Collaborative said, "We can tell them whatever we want, but there's no substitute for showing them. That's what really has an impact."

    Click the headline to see the April 5, 2011 story from South Coast Today.

Kids Who Witness or Experience Violence More Likely to Be Violent, Study Says

adolescent-mental-health_girl-watching-from-hidingChildren who witness violence often think it is normal, a development that can lead to violent behavior, says a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
The researchers, who surveyed 800 children between the ages of 8 and 12, asked the children if they had witnessed violence on television, at home or at school.  Six months later they were polled a second time.  Children who said they had witnessed violence were aggressive, according to the study.
“People exposed to a heavy diet of violence come to believe that aggression is a normal way to solve conflict and get what you want in life,” the study’s authors wrote.  “These beliefs lower their inhibitions against aggression against others.”
The full study is available by subscription only, but you can read more at ScienceDaily.

How Juvenile Probation Officers Identify Youth Mental Health Needs

juvenile-justice-system_broken-pencil-crumpled-paperA few weeks ago, my colleague, Jeff Butts, discussed here the implications of our recent study of rates of psychiatric disorder in almost 10,000 young persons at various levels of penetration of the justice system. (Here's the original study: "Psychiatric Disorder, Comorbidity, and Suicidal Behavior in Juvenile Justice Youth.")
He drew attention to our finding that, when evaluated in a standard way, approximately 35% of young persons at system entry (i.e., entering the juvenile justice system via probation or family court processing) met criteria for a mental health or substance use disorder.

In that work, we relied on a well-validated, computerized, instrument which aggregates a youth’s answers to specific questions about symptoms to generate a set of provisional psychiatric disorders (the DISC-IV). But what happens about identifying mental health problems in settings where such research activities are not in place?

Events: Responding to Tragic Incidents Involving a Person with Serious Mental Illness, and More

  • adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_light-coming-in-windowWebinar 3/10: Responding To A High-Profile Tragic Incident Involving A Person With A Serious Mental Illness
    From the Council of State Governments' Justice Center's Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project press release:

    When a person with a history or current diagnosis of serious mental illness is involved in a high-profile tragic incident, community leaders face public, media, legal and legislative scrutiny. Incomplete and/or inaccurate information may spread quickly—not only about the incident, but also about the likelihood of violence among individuals with mental illnesses. This is often fueled by community members’ mistaken assumptions that mental health treatment is ineffective and that most people with mental illnesses are violent. Though most individuals with serious mental illnesses will never be violent and can live successfully in the community with adequate treatment, supports, and housing, when a high-profile, tragic incident does occur that involves a member of this population, it can engender fear and lead to heated public debate.

    To help policymakers better anticipate and respond to these events, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and the Council of State Governments Justice Center have released a toolkit for responding to tragic incidents involving a person with serious mental illnesses. In this webinar presenters will discuss the toolkit’s origins and applications. Presenters include:

    Dr. Lorrie Rickman-Jones, Director of Mental Health for the Illinois Department of Human Services
    Dr. Fred Osher, Director of Health Systems and Services Policy for the Council of State Governments Justice Center
    Mr. David Miller, Project Director for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

    Date: Thursday, March 10, 2011
    Time: 2:00-3:15 pm E.T.

    To register for this event, please click the link above.

Interview: Implementing Multidimensional Family Therapy for Teens in the Justice System

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_MDFT-coverMultidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) is an evidence-based practice for working with adolescents struggling with substance abuse – the manual can be downloaded from SAMHSA for free. (SAMHSA is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.) One of five treatment protocols developed and tested in the past decade by SAMHSA, it has been shown to be clinically and cost-effective.
As it happens, the creator of MDFT, Dr. Howard A. Liddle, Ed.D., will be doing a webinar for us on family engagement on April 30, 2011, at 11 am PST / 12 pm CST / 2 pm EST. You can learn more and register for it on our webinars page.
Dr. Liddle told me recently that there was an MDFT program operating in Portland, Oregon, where I live, so I set up an interview with Deena Corso, who is a clinical supervisor in the Juvenile Treatment Services unit at the Department of Community Justice (DCJ) in Multnomah County, Oregon. (Deena and I were co-workers when I was employed there between 2000 and 2007.)

Benjamin: What are the top reasons to implement MDFT?
Deena: We picked MDFT as our treatment model because it's an evidence-based practice, effective at reducing substance abuse and delinquent behavior for populations that looked like ours. We’d had a Multi-Systemic Therapy [MST] program for many years with good outcomes, but budget cuts forced us to look for an alternative, and once we looked at the research, we decided on MDFT. 

Roundup: Gay Teens Face Harsher Punishments

  • juvenile-justice-system_corrections-spending-graphicGrowth in Corrections Spending 1987-2007 Dwarfed Spending on Higher Ed (see image at right) - Curious about where your state stands? Follow the link and check the graph.  It would be interesting to see the same data comparing spending on the juvenile justice system with middle- and high-school spending.  (Hat tip to Jim Carlton.) 
  • Gay Teens Are Punished More Heavily in School and in Juvenile Court - From The New York Times: A national study of 15,000 middle school and high school teens published in Pediatrics found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens are more likely to be expelled from school than their straight peers, and more likely to be stopped, arrested, and adjudicated.  And "it's not because they're misbehaving more," says the study's lead author, Kathryn Himmelstein. (Hat tip to Dan Merrigan.)

Roundup: Where I'd Put My Money in Juvenile Justice

juvenile-justice-reform_old-TV-newsAdolescent Substance Abuse Treatment - Related News