Families Gather to Improve Teen Substance Abuse Treatment

Want to see changes in the adolescent substance abuse treatment system? Families are the key.  If change is to occur, then families have to be part of the solution. Yet too often, they’re left out of the conversation. 
That might be about to change.

On March 27-28, I had the good fortune to participate in a national dialogue with 65 family members of teens struggling with alcohol and drugs – family members who represented 34 States and Tribes from all over the country. 
Here’s what they told us were the big challenges in treatment and recovery for youth with substance use disorders. The top two:

  • a lack of education and information to support families; and
  • a lack of access to substance abuse treatment for youth and their families.

Other challenges they identified included:

  • the lack of an integrated treatment system for youth with co-occurring mental health disorders;
  • stigma and misunderstanding of the disease of substance abuse and addiction; and
  • quality of treatment for youth. 

While at the meeting, family representatives developed plans to immediately begin working on these major issues in their own communities. They’ll meet with their local State/Tribal substance abuse agency heads and other parent organizations. 
But they’ll also continue to work on the issue nationally by continuing to work as a group, and getting others to join them in their fight against this disease. Materials from the meeting will be disseminated to the States and Tribes, and a listserv will be created to facilitate communication and keep the group energized and informed as they proceed. 
As Sharon Smith, one of organizers of the meeting and the head of Momstell, an advocacy group for parents in Pennsylvania, said, “We’re building a national voice for positive change in youth substance abuse treatment and recovery.” 
This is a great moment, seeing families rising up and working together to demand the support that they need. I have hope that they will attract others to a growing national movement, ensuring that the voices of families will be heard. 
Want to help teens struggling with alcohol and drugs? Need more information? Contact Sharon Smith. Ideas or thoughts? Please leave a comment below.
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Updated: March 21 2018