Blog: Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment

Forsyth County’s Juvenile Drug-Treatment Court Celebrates First Graduates

Forsyth County’s juvenile drug-treatment court celebrated its first three graduates in April. The Forsyth County juvenile drug-treatment court started in January 2013 and is geared toward nonviolent youths ages 12 to 16 who have substance abuse problems and have been sentenced to probation in juvenile court.
The goal of the program is to give participants a chance at a better life, ultimately reducing recidivism. Juanita Campbell, grandmother of one of the graduates, celebrated the program for this mission:
“I thank God for this program because I don’t want to give him to the streets,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to bury him. I don’t want him to spend 30 years in prison.”
Participants are required to remain in school, perform 25 hours of community service, and are subject to random drug testing. It typically takes nine to 15 months to graduate from the program, with assessments every 90 days to monitor the teens’ progress.
Forsyth County Court works with the local Reclaiming Futures to carry out assessments. Jemi Sneed, project director of Reclaiming Futures, said all participants are assessed to determine what type of substance abuse and other treatment they need, and then directed to the most appropriate treatment.

“Scary Mary” Presiding: Dateline NBC Takes an In-Depth Look at Drug Courts

On Sunday, NBC’s Dateline aired an in-depth look at Mercer County, Michigan’s drug courts. The piece, featuring Adult and Juvenile Drug Court Judge “Scary Mary” Chrzanowski, followed the stories of three individuals, whose addictions landed them in drug court, for an entire year.
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) further explains why this riveting piece is so important:

While the story is a profile of just one of over 2,800 Drug Courts in the United States, it underscores two important issues critical to the public’s understanding of all Drug Courts. First, the individuals profiled in the piece, no matter their original charge, were given the option of Drug Court because they were assessed and shown to meet the clinical criteria for drug-dependence. Once they were admitted, the Drug Court team worked tirelessly to keep them in the program and deal with relapse and other issues that arose along the way.

Dateline will post the full episode here later this week. For now you can watch and share select clips on NBC’s website, or watch the teaser below.

Graduation Celebration in Montgomery County, Ohio

As many students graduated across the county in May and June, the Honorable Anthony Capizzi congratulated youth during a different kind of commencement. On May 15, 2014, Montgomery County Juvenile Court celebrated the journey to sobriety of 15 youth along with their families. Judge Capizzi indicated that for some youth and families, the journey was lengthy with many obstacles; for others, the goal of completing Drug Court was swift and certain. Regardless of the path traveled by youth to their graduation date, Judge Capizzi, the Drug Court case managers and counselors never gave up on them. More importantly, the youth and families never gave up on themselves. Two families gave testimonials that Montgomery County Juvenile Drug Court not only facilitated their children’s sobriety but also directly impacted or led to the parents’ sobriety at the same time.
Singer/community activist Vaughn Anthony Stephens was the guest speaker for graduation. Vaughn Anthony has traveled the world singing background for his brother, John Legend. He has also performed solo and collaborated with stars such as Rick Ross, Robin Thicke, Ghostface, Estelle and many others. Currently Vaughn Anthony is launching his own non-profit corporation, the “Be About it Movement,” in his hometown of Springfield, Ohio. Vaughn Anthony provided an inspirational and encouraging message for youth to remain disciplined and focused on their sobriety.
As a special surprise for graduation, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor sent representatives to recognize the accomplishments of Montgomery County’s Drug Court youth. Assistant Senior Policy Advisors Angie Lee and Lisa Hayes presented all graduating youth with Certificates of Achievement signed by Governor Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Taylor. A special recognition was also presented to Judge Anthony Capizzi for his commitment to Drug Court and the youth of Montgomery County. The Resolution presented to Judge Capizzi from Governor Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Taylor recognizes his unwavering support of the Drug Court program.
The Montgomery County Juvenile Drug Court, led by Judge Anthony Capizzi, the Drug Court case managers and staff, and the families and friends of the youth in the program are commended for their work to make their community a safer place to live, work and raise a family.

Two Reclaiming Futures Fellows Nominated for Goldstein Hall of Fame

This year two Reclaiming Futures fellows, Judge Anthony Capizzi, Reclaiming Futures Montgomery County Judicial Fellow and Reclaiming Futures Judicial Faculty, and Lilas Rajaee, project director of Reclaiming Futures Denver, have been nominated for the Goldstein Hall of Fame.
The Honorable Judge Stanley M. Goldstein was the first Drug Court judge in the nation. In recognition of Judge Goldstein's example, expertise, and leadership, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) named the Drug Court Hall of Fame in his honor. From the NADCP website:

In 1989, the first Drug Court was established in Miami, Florida, to process criminal cases of substance-abusing offenders through comprehensive supervision, testing, treatment, sanctions and incentives.
Judge Goldstein's untiring efforts epitomize the qualities this award seeks to honor in each of its recipients. NADCP inaugurated the "Stanley M. Goldstein Drug Court Hall of Fame" in January 2003.

Congratulations to Judge Capizzi and Lilas Rajaee for all of your tireless work.

Mental Health Week: Some Numbers to Remember; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

SAMHSA Sponsors Local Town Hall Meetings in Recognition of Alcohol Awareness Month

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and proactive organizations like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are doing their part to recognize its importance by supporting and assembling local underage drinking prevention initiatives.

Underage drinking kills approximately 4,700 youth a year, among many other tragic consequences, and prevention is crucial to reduce the negative impacts it has on families and communities.

This is the fifth year SAMHSA has sponsored national Town Hall Meetings that have proven effective to achieve the following:

  • Educating community members about the consequences of underage drinking.
  • Empowering communities to make environmental changes to prevent underage drinking.
  • Mobilizing communities around underage drinking prevention initiatives at the local, state, and national levels.

More than 2,000 communities across the nation will be hosting these meetings to coincide with Alcohol Awareness Month, and anyone interested is welcome—and encouraged—to attend and join their community in observance of this problem that affects us all.
Hear an important message from Frances M. Harding, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, on why you should attend Town Hall Meetings this month!

Juvenile Justice System Not Meeting Educational Needs; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Study Looks at Kids Who Do Time For Offenses That Aren’t Crimes; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Join the Conversation in the Reclaiming Futures LinkedIn Group

Did you know that Reclaiming Futures has a LinkedIn group? Becoming a member lets you stay on top of the latest news related to juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment, participate in thought-provoking discussions, and connect with peers and thought leaders in the industry. All you have to do is visit our Juvenile Justice Reform and Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment LinkedIn group and request to join.
Our group will be especially beneficial if you are a:

  • Policy maker or legislator
  • Professional in the field of juvenile justice or adolescent substance abuse treatment
  • Family or youth advocate

How About a Caring Adult for Every Teen?

Community leaders in Snohomish County, Washington, are helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol, mental health issues and crime.
They have a lofty goal: To have a caring adult help every teen.
The Herald of Everett, Washington, recently highlighted mentors who spoke out on behalf of young people involved in the juvenile justice system: 

"They're not bad kids. A detour has taken them off the road to success," Litzkow says, repeating a mantra favored by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss. Weiss presides over the juvenile drug court at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center. He also is a champion for the county's Reclaiming Futures project. The pilot program was launched in 2010 in the county's juvenile court system. It's modeled after a national initiative aimed at providing effective treatment for drug- and alcohol-addicted teens, and caring for their needs once they're out of the criminal justice system. A large part of that initiative is connecting kids with positive role models.

Deena Eckroth, 49, believes young people need support regardless of some of the bad decisions that they may make. "They've had enough people abandon them," Eckroth said. The Mukilteo mother of two grown children recently was paired up with a 15-year-old girl. Eckroth said she was compelled to volunteer with at-risk youth in part because of her experience as a human resources manager. She has had to turn people away for jobs because of their past mistakes. "It made me wonder what happened in their life and what could have helped that person turn around," she said. "This really makes sense for me." Eckroth now is recruiting co-workers and others to become mentors.

This effort builds on the success of the Promising Artists in Recovery program that is still going strong in Snohomish County. 

The Great Hidden Secret: How ‘The Anonymous People’ is Changing Recovery Culture

Note: this article originally appeared on and is reprinted with their permission. 
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — On a recent grey Saturday morning, a quiet fell over the sparse audience seated in a vocational school assembly hall as Kimberly Beauregard stepped up to the stage. She was introducing the movie to a small audience of three dozen, who had endured a brutally cold morning and a wicked ice storm.
After a few words greeting the crowd and thanking them for their intrepid spirit braving the treacherous conditions to make it to the screening, she praised the movie they were about to see. After that Beauregard, the president of InterCommunity, an East Hartford-based health organization that provides addiction and mental health care, bowed her head and collected herself for a moment. And then she told the crowd something she had never spoken of publicly before: She was one of the Anonymous People.
“I have never said that before in public,” she said, her voice cracking. “And after you see the movie you will understand why I am.”
The movie was “The Anonymous People,” a spunky profile of the burgeoning grassroots drug and alcohol recovery movement by a 30-year-old first time feature length filmmaker named Greg Williams, who himself has been in recovery since he was 17-years-old.
After a few moments, the lights dimmed and the movie began.

Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide

Earlier this month, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), published a guide detailing a drug abuse approach that goes way beyond "Just Say No!" The guide, "Presents research-based principles of adolescent substance use disorder treatment; covers treatment for a variety of drugs including, illicit and prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; presents settings and evidence-based approaches unique to treating adolescents." Via the report:

People are most likely to begin abusing drugs—including tobacco, alcohol, and illegal and prescription drugs—during adolescence and young adulthood.
By the time they are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nearly 40 percent will have smoked a cigarette, and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose.1 There are many reasons adolescents use these substances, including the desire for new experiences, an attempt to deal with problems or perform better in school, and simple peer pressure. Adolescents are “biologically wired” to seek new experiences and take risks, as well as to carve out their own identity. Trying drugs may fulfill all of these normal developmental drives, but in an unhealthy way that can have very serious long-term consequences.
Many factors influence whether an adolescent tries drugs, including the availability of drugs within the neighborhood, community, and school and whether the adolescent’s friends are using them. The family environment is also important: Violence, physical or emotional abuse, mental illness, or drug use in the household increase the likelihood an adolescent will use drugs. Finally, an adolescent’s inherited genetic vulnerability; personality traits like poor impulse control or a high need for excitement; mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD; and beliefs such as that drugs are “cool” or harmless make it more likely that an adolescent will use drugs.

Get the full publication on >>

Help Teens Shatter Myths About Drugs and Drug Abuse

Many teens are not aware of the serious risks drugs and alcohol pose to their health, success in school and future. What can communities do to effectively educate teens about the risks of drug abuse? One way is for school staff, parents, and students to work together to get the truth out.
During this year’s National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), a national health observance designed to arm communities with the materials and tools they need to counteract the myths about drug abuse, science teachers, health teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, drug prevention programs, and community support programs will use science-based information, available free from NIDA, in their curriculum, school assemblies, PTA meetings, and evening workshops.
Inspired by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institute of Health, NDFW is in its fourth year, and will be held from January 27 through February 2, 2014.
In the wake of new recommendations from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America, the time is ripe to encourage communities and leaders to work together to improve the health of our nation by investing in children.
Close to 1,000 events are planned this year to focus on communicating with teens about drug use and its consequences. Some examples include:

  • Addiction-themed art contests
  • Trivia nights
  • School assemblies
  • Panel discussions
  • Government proclamations

Using ideas and resources provided by NIDA, there is a way for everyone to learn the facts and help shatter myths about drug abuse during National Drug Facts Week and beyond.
For more information, visit the National Drug Facts Week website or email

OP-ED: Reducing Youth Crime by Treating Substance Abuse

 Note: this post originally appeared on and is reprinted with their permission.
One of the most effective and long-running efforts to change both policies and practices in juvenile justice is Reclaiming Futures, housed at the Regional Research Institute for Human Services of the School of Social Work at Portland State University in Oregon. The organization began in 2001 with a $21 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and initially went to work in 10 communities.
Now they are active in 39 communities in 18 states. Their six-step model tracks various phases of youth involvement with the justice system and brings together “judges, probation officers, substance abuse treatment professionals and community members” to provide the services that kids need to address their needs and make the community safer.
The main focus of the approach is treating substance abuse, a behavior strongly linked to youth crime and delinquency. The six steps seek to identify drug and alcohol use early on in the youth’s encounter with the justice system, then ensure quality treatment, support and transition back to everyday life.
Since its beginning, Reclaiming Futures has been dedicated to data collection and evaluation, and independent analysis of the founding communities has shown improvement in quality of service, improved efficiency of service delivery, improved outcomes for kids and an overall savings when compared to more traditional approaches.
The current director, Susan Richardson, wrote a post last week entitled “How to Help More Kids in 2014.” She writes: “Did you know that 343,000 teens are arrested each year in the United States for drug and alcohol related crimes, yet only one in 16 teens who need treatment receive it?” Problems like this are at the heart of what Reclaiming Futures seek to change. All too often the facts have little to do with how youth crime and delinquency are addressed.
With a commitment to processes and interventions that work, and that are both trackable and repeatable, Reclaiming Futures has made a deep and sustainable impact on the communities where their approach has been implemented. Let’s hope their work is spread further around the country in the coming year.

Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities

In 2008, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) convened the Commission to Build a Healthier America to find better ways to improve the health of our nation.
In their search for solutions, the Commissioners found that where we live, learn, work, and play profoundly influences our health.
The new recommendations, released January 13, are aimed at improving health now and for generations to come, and specifically highlight the need to:

  • Prioritize investments in America's youngest children.
  • Encourage leaders in different sectors to work together to create communities where healthy decisions are possible, with a particular emphasis on community development.
  • Challenge health professionals and health care institutions to expand their focus from treating illness to helping people live healthy lives.

Reclaiming Futures supports RWJF's effort and continues to unite juvenile courts, probation, mental health treatment, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth.
We'd love to hear from you. How can the Commission's recommendations change the way communities invest in young people? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below. 

For Young People Addicted to Painkillers, the Path Less Taken -- Why?

Note: this piece originally appeared on Huffington Post
Abuse of prescription (Rx) medications, particularly of Rx opioids (medicines that treat pain), continues to be one of the nation's most concerning health problems. Mistakenly, many adolescents believe that Rx opioids are safe because they are prescribed by a doctor. But when abused, they can be as potent and as deadly as heroin. In fact, many teens and young adults who abuse Rx opioids move on to heroin abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls prescription drug abuse an "epidemic," and we see it as a public health issue that disproportionately impacts our kids.
But Rx opioid or heroin abuse does not have to be lethal. There are behavioral and pharmacological treatments that can save lives and bring even seriously addicted kids into long-term recovery. The problem is that many treatment programs have chosen to either rely on only behavioral treatments or only medications; and most physicians do not have sufficient training in either medication or behavioral therapy to provide effective treatment. So, when parents find themselves at the critical crossroads of what to do for an opiate-addicted child, what can they do to get help? What are our doctors providing, or even offering, to them?
While no one treatment approach is right for every teen, it is clinically sensible -- but not easy -- to find comprehensive care. We tell families to look for three things: First, the availability of professional counseling; second, medications and regular monitoring for the affected teen; and finally, family therapy to help that teen.
Teens who abuse opioids require professional counseling, combined with regular monitoring, as a minimum requirement of effective treatment. Their families can also benefit from professional therapy, helping them better understand the basis of their teen's addiction. This therapy can help both them and their child create a practical plan to recovery.

2014 Brings Change to the Georgia Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Juvenile Justice Redefined (
    Times change. And science changes. And however belatedly sometimes the law needs to change to take all of that into account. In reaction to some admittedly horrific crimes, lawmakers — here and around the country — rewrote laws that allowed juveniles to be sentenced in adult courts to some very adult penalties, including life in prison without the possibility of parole.
  • 2014 Brings Change to the Georgia Juvenile Justice System (
    Georgia is making some changes when it comes to juvenile offenders, a new law will be put in place to reduce the number of minors in lockup and help save the state thousands of dollars. Starting this year, only those who commit serious offenses will be held in custody and as for those accountable for minor offenses, they will be placed in community based programs instead.
  • Looking Back: A Year in Juvenile Justice (
    As 2013 concludes and 2014 begins, JJIE has compiled a selection of some of our most compelling stories from the last year. Collectively, these articles tell of issues in juvenile mental health, improvements in alternative forms of treatment, the danger of stop and frisk, and more.

Confronting Bias in the Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Black Girls Disproportionately Confined; Struggle for Dignity in Juvenile Court Schools (New Pittsburgh Courier)
    African American girls continue to be disproportionately over-represented among girls in confinement and court-ordered residential placements. They are also significantly over-represented among girls who experience exclusionary discipline, such as out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and other punishment.
  • Teen-Produced Video Highlights Campaign to ‘Raise the Age’ (
    Last summer, a group of teens enrolled in a program at the New York Center for Juvenile Justice decided to take on what they see as an unfair practice in a recently released video called “Because I’m 16.”
    “Because I’m 16, I can’t drive at night,” a teen says as the video begins. It lists other things you can’t do as a 16-year-old -- drink, smoke, buy a lottery ticket, see an R-rated movie.
  • Reforming the Juvenile Justice System Could Save Hawaii Millions (
    Hawaii is spending nearly $200,000 per bed per year to house juvenile offenders, most of whom got in trouble for non-violent low-level crimes. But the state could save millions of dollars a year by focusing only on the most serious offenders and putting the savings back into the community to help with mental health and substance abuse programs for young offenders, juvenile justice experts say.
  • Confronting Bias in the Juvenile Justice System (
    In the ABC News video, the white youth and the black youth both appear to be trying to do the same thing: steal a bike in broad daylight in a community park. But the two actors playing thieves, both filmed by hidden cameras at different times, get decidedly different reactions from passers-by.

Holidays in the Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • At Thanksgiving, Reflecting on Justice for Native Americans (
    “Native Americans and Juvenile Justice: A Hidden Tragedy,” is an article from the 2008 issue of Poverty and Race, and covers the intersection of this historically disadvantaged group with the modern justice system.
  • OP-ED: Life-Saving Suicide Prevention Resources Address Critical Need in Juvenile Justice System (
    When it comes to high risk for suicide, youth in contact with the juvenile justice system stand out. It is alarming. Fortunately, staff within the system can play a crucial preventive role by working collectively to provide guidance, support and access to needed care.
  • Holidays in the Juvenile Justice System (
    "My wife, Mary Jo, and I were snowbound in Michigan while working on a building project so we lost Thanksgiving with our families in southern Illinois. Missing a holiday with the dozens of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles got me to wondering – what is the holiday experience for a kid in detention?"