- As expected, R. Gil Kerlikowske has been officially named America's "Drug Czar", according to Join Together. While the former Seattle police chief seems to be a good choice, the "drug czar" positoin will no longer be part of the President's Cabinet. Though this might suggest that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will have reduced influence on policy, apparently Vice President Joe Biden will also be working on the issue. (See coverage in The New York Times and The Washington Post.)
The Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice (FACJJ) just released its annual report, which sums up its review of state progress with core requirements of the federal Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act.
Among its key recommendations: mandate mental health and substance abuse treatment for youth in the justice system.
Here's what it says:
Unsurprising news for those of us in Reclaiming Futures: a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that only about 10 percent of adolescents who have substance abuse problems actually enter treatment, partly because the nation lacks sufficient teen-only treatment services. Furthermore, of the adolescent treatment programs that are available, very few receive "high marks for quality." You can find the actual study in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
A recent national survey of attitudes toward addiction performed by Hazelden contains some encouraging news:
- 77% of Americans agree that addiction treatment should be part of healthcare reform (though many are unsure if their own insurance plan covers it); and
- 78% of Americans "understand that drug addiction is a chronic disease rather than a personal failing."
A lot's been happening in juvenile justice lately. Here's some high-and-lowlights:
- The Obama administration is nominating Seattle's police chief, R. Gil Kerlikowske, to be the new drug czar. This seems to be encouraging news, as he is chair of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a law enforcement association that favors prevention and intervention methods for addressing juvenile crime, and disseminates relevant research.
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its policy recomendations for reforming the juvenile justice system, just in time for Congress to consider reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
Chances are, you saw the news that two judges in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty last week to charges that for five years, they funnelled teens into detention in exchange for $2.6 million in kickbacks. This, after they'd worked to get the county-run detention center shut down in 2002. An estimated 5,000 juveniles who appeared in court were victimized this way; many for behavior that should never have landed them in court in the first place. A class-action lawsuit brought by the Juvenile Law Center is in the offing, and possibly -- hopefully -- charges against those running the private detention centers.
This is appalling news. But it's also unusual. Juvenile court judges deserve the trust we place in them; they have a difficult job, trying to use the power of the court to help young people turn their lives around.
What can more fortunate jurisdictions, then, learn from this story? I came away thinking about two things:
- Teen alcohol and drug treatment is often paid for with funds from the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds. So it was especially good news to hear that 4 million more children will be covered by the federal program.
- No word on who the permanent new Drug Czar will be. In the mean time, an interim Drug Czar was named by Obama.
- Even alcohol and drug policy groups at the state level can be subject to politics: in New Jersey, the State Comptroller audited the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse for the first time in its 20-year existence, and said its $10 million budget would never produce "measurable results."
- Want a quick orientation to Reclaiming Futures?
- Work for a Reclaiming Futures initiative, and wonder how to do an "elevator speech" about it?
Check out Dr. Laura Nissen, National Director of Reclaiming Futures, in this brief, 4-minute interview on Comcast Newsmakers. It aired in a break on Comcast's CNN Headline News in late December.
- The Children's Defense Fund has issued its State of America's Children Report for 2008, and it paints a stark picture, indeed. For example, see p. 49 for a graphic representation of how black youth are disproportionately arrested for drug offenses, even though other data indicates they use drugs at the same rate or less than most other teens.
Two major organizations involved in fighting addiction and substance abuse have merged: CASA -- the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University -- and Join Together, based at Boston University. (Both, incidentally, are Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantees, like Reclaiming Futures).
Join Together was chock full of interesting news this week. First, it reported that the state of Rhode Island has launched an addiction hotline, so that "children, adolescents, and adults" can get an alcohol and drug assessment within 24 hours. This will be piloted for only 3 months, but it's a huge step forward, and I can't wait to see what's learned.
Also from Join Together: