How Reclaiming Futures Helps Stop the Revolving Door

key in doorlockJust before the holidays, The New York Times published an interesting article by Benedict Carey on the state of alcohol and drug treatment, called "Drug Rehabilitation or Revolving Door?"

Carey says that state governments and health insurers (who spend $20 billion a year on addiction treatment for people of all ages) are growing skeptical about what they're getting for their money because of a prevailing lack of evidence about whether treatment works and the absence of industry standards. And he goes on to describe efforts in Oregon and Delaware to improve treatment outcomes by implementing evidence-based treatment practices.
In many ways, the article is dead-on. For example, it's very difficult to train your workforce adequately in a rural area, where resources are scarce, treatment professionals are few, and those you have often don't stay long. And assuring that therapists are faithful to the treatment models is an expensive-but-unfunded challenge. 
Carey's article, however, only underscores the importance of the Reclaiming Futures approach for youth in the justice system. For example:

  • No one knows for sure if youth in the justice system are getting treatment, or if it's effective? Using the Reclaiming Futures model can help stakeholders track their effectiveness at screening, assessing, and engaging youth in treatment; it can also help track how many teens are getting coordinated service plans. 
  • Not all youth entering the justice system are screened for alcohol and drug use? Reclaiming Futures helps communities begin to screen and assess them. (Incidentally, we focus on youth in the justice system because that's where the vast majority of youth in treatment come from -- 44% in fact, according to a resource guide recently published by Physicians and Lawyers for National Drug Policy.)
  • Not enough evidence-based treatment? Joint focus by stakeholders -- judges, probation officers, treatment professionals, local officials, community members -- can make a difference. Coordination can help free up necessary funds, training, and other resources.
  • Nothing for teens to do when they get done with treatment? Reclaiming Futures communities work to build ties between the juvenile justice system and the community to increase opportunities for employment, connections with caring adults, and fun, drug-free activities. 

Implementation of evidence-based practices is not easy. Nor is implementing "practice-based evidence."
But it's even harder if the key players -- the juvenile court, probation, substance abuse treatment professionals, community members, parents and youth -- are not working together toward common goals.
Reclaiming Futures helps them take steps toward creating a true system of care, one designed to assure that youth who need care are identified, that they get the best care possible, and that they develop lasting skills and connections to the community to support them in recovery.
Now that's good news.
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Updated: January 06 2009