Blog: No bio box

4 Lessons Learned from the Annual Children's Mental Health Research & Policy Conference

As reported last week, Reclaiming Futures staff and I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Children’s Mental Health Research & Policy Conference at the University of South Florida. See below for our top takeaways from the presentations.
1. Prevention and Treatment Saves Money
Dr. Michael Dennis of Chestnut Health Systems explained during his presentation, “Like any other chronic disease, [substance use disorder] is all about prevention and treatment.” He continued, “We have the opportunity to do the right thing and save money! Ten percent of the population effects 74 percent of the costs. We need good case management.”
2. Research and Evaluation are Key
Another highlight that emerged from the conference was the increasing emphasis on research and evaluation. Programs today need hard data in order to demonstrate effectiveness and develop future plans.
3. Treatment Provider Relationships Build Success
Approximately thirty percent of a young person’s success is due to their relationship with a treatment provider, no matter what evidence based treatment model is used. 
4. It’s all Connected
Speakers emphasized that substance abuse, mental health, and juvenile justice are inextricably interconnected. This is why our model works to ensure that teens get the treatment they need.

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The Startling Data Behind “My Brother’s Keeper"

Young men of color drop out of school, come into contact with the criminal justice system, and become victims of violence at alarmingly high rates compared to their white peers. My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative recently announced by President Obama, aims to change that. Here are some startling figures that underscore the need to address this problem, which Obama calls “an issue of national importance:”

  • 86 percent of African-American boys and 82 percent of Hispanic boys are reading below proficiency levels–compared to 54 percent of their white peers–by the time they’ve hit fourth grade.
  • African-American and Hispanic young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers and account for almost half of the country's murder victims each year.
  • African-Americans make up 16 percent of the overall youth population but account for 28 percent of juvenile arrests and 37 percent of prisoners and jail detainees.

Manuel Criollo, an organizer with the Los Angeles Labor-Community Strategy Center, calls the announcement of the new initiative “an important breakthrough for the movement and for institutions and foundations that have been working on this issue.”
Ten foundations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have committed to raise and provide $200 million over the next five years for programs for the initiative and will take a collaborative approach to increase opportunity and unlock the potential of young men of color.
In addition, a My Brother’s Keeper Task Force will review policies and programs to determine what’s working, how the initiative can become more effective, and highlight programs with the most positive impact.

Juvenile Justice Resource Hub Launches New Section to Cover Racial-Ethnic Fairness

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) recently launched a new section of its Resource Hub on racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. Via the website:

Step into juvenile delinquency courts throughout the country, and you will usually find the number of children of color who appear there are far out of proportion to their numbers in the surrounding community. For decades, they have been over-represented (and treated more harshly for the same behavior as their non-Hispanic white counterparts) at every stage of the delinquency process – from arrest, to secure detention, confinement, and transfer to the adult system. The causes are varied and have often proved resistant to change.
However, in recent years, better data collection and analysis in many localities has helped spur the development of strategies to reduce disparities among youth in contact with the juvenile justice system. This work is paving the way for a more equitable juvenile justice system that will treat youth fairly regardless of their race or ethnicity.
The Racial-Ethnic Fairness section of the Resource Hub will provide you with an overview of salient issues and links to information on each approach, as well as the most recent research, cutting edge reforms, model policies, best practices, links to experts, and toolkits to take action.

Program in Loudoun County, Virginia Reduces Recidivism in Teens; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Behind 'Juvenile In Justice': A Discussion With Photographer Richard Ross (
    There are about 70,000 young people in juvenile detention centers or correctional faculties in the United States. Richard Ross spent the past seven years documenting the lives of American juveniles who have been housed in these facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist, and, occasionally, harm them.
  • Program in Loudoun County, Virginia Reduces Recidivism in Teens (
    For over a decade now the Loudoun County, Virginia, School Based Probation (SBP) program has worked to reduce recidivism in teens and made impressive gains in combatting the school-to-prison pipeline. Since the program was instituted in the 2002-2003 school year, SBP has provided “a safety net to those students who might be tempted, through peer pressure or otherwise, to fall into delinquency patterns.”
  • Juvenile Solitary Confinement: Modern-Day ‘Torture’ in the US (
    As a 17-year-old, Michael Kemp says, he felt like a caged animal. For six months, his world was reduced to the size of a Washington, D.C., jail cell measuring maybe 8 feet by 10 feet. During much of his time in solitary confinement, he spent 23 hours a day alone in the cell.
  • "Kids for Cash" Details a Disturbing Juvenile Court Kickback Scandal (
    Deeply shocking and continually surprising, "Kids for Cash" examines the scandal surrounding a Pennsylvania judge's draconian imprisonment of kids for minor hijinks, in exchange for kickbacks from a juvenile detention center.

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Annual Children's Mental Health Research & Policy Conference Wraps Up

Greetings from the Children’s Mental Health Research and Policy Conference, hosted March 2-5, 2014, by the Department of Child & Family Studies at the University of South Florida. 
It has been a busy week with a robust agenda to expand research; translate the science to practice; expand initiatives to strengthen and sustain healthy communities; and improve the quality of life for children and families.
Research has shown a strong link to between substance abuse and teens seeking mental health care.
Stay tuned for lessons learned.
Photo at right: Portland State University was well-represented, as you can see from the contingency (left to right) John Ossowski, Janet Walker, Susan Richardson, and Nancy Koroloff.

Program in Loudoun County, Virginia Reduces Recidivism in Teens

For over a decade now the Loudoun County, Virginia, School Based Probation (SBP) program has worked to reduce recidivism in teens and made impressive gains in combatting the school-to-prison pipeline. Since the program was instituted in the 2002-2003 school year, SBP has provided “a safety net to those students who might be tempted, through peer pressure or otherwise, to fall into delinquency patterns.”
It’s working. As a direct result of this program, Loudoun has seen its juvenile crime and discipline incidents fall dramatically while its school population has grown.
SBP’s data shows that having a probation officer at school improves attendance, academic performance and student behavior. In addition, SBP reduces recidivism, which lends to a safer school environment and community-at-large.
Keeping teens out of the juvenile justice system isn’t the program’s only goal though. According to an SBP brief,

While recidivism rates for court-involved youth are target, a child with an improved attendance record will perform better academically, and overall behavior in school and the community will improve as well. Truancy often leads to delinquent behavior for many youth. The school based probation officer monitors attendance on a daily basis. The communication gaps between schools and Probation Officers have been greatly reduced.

For more on the Loudoun County School Based Probation, download the PDF >>
For more on the school-to-prison pipeline, see our past reporting >>

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Medicine Abuse Through the Eyes of a Teen; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • The School to Prison Pipeline Issue (
    The phrase “School to Prison Pipeline” has been widely used to describe what happens when school misconduct is answered with suspension, expulsion, and police intervention, as opposed to primarily internal consequences and sanctions. This “criminalizing” of student behavior, it is suggested, unfairly targets minority juveniles, often injecting them into the juvenile justice system, and increasing the opportunity for premature incarceration as a juvenile offender.
  • Rewrite of Juvenile Justice Statute Would Include Prevention, Trauma-Informed Care (
    The Florida Legislature is moving to overhaul the law governing the Department of Juvenile Justice during the session that starts March 4th. The rewrite would focus on preventing kids from coming into the juvenile justice system in the first place.
  • Young Voices Become Strong Through WritersCorps (
    Nine young people stood on a stage last week in San Francisco to read their poetry — and two others detained in juvenile hall had their recorded voices presented. "You can feel the heat and desperation," read student K.M. from his poem about the sun, recorded at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center.

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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.

New SAMHSA Grants to Expand Treatment Drug Courts

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2014 Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment in Adult Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts and Juvenile Treatment Drug Courts. SAMHSA anticipates $4,550,000 in total funding.
The purpose of this program is to expand and/or enhance substance abuse treatment services in existing adult Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts (which are the tribal version of adult drug courts) and in Juvenile Treatment Drug Courts (tribal or non-tribal) which use the treatment drug court model in order to provide alcohol and drug treatment (including recovery support services supporting substance abuse treatment, screening, assessment, case management, and program coordination) to defendants/offenders.
Grantees will be expected to provide a coordinated, multi-system approach designed to combine the sanctioning power of treatment drug courts with effective treatment services to break the cycle of criminal behavior, alcohol and/or drug use, and incarceration or other penalties.

  • Anticipated Number of Awards: Up to 14
  • Anticipated Award Amount: Up to $325,000 per year
  • Length of Project: Up to 3 years
  • Application Due Date: Monday, March 17, 2014

More information is available at >>

News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Los Angeles Juvenile Justice System Overhaul Pondered (
    Los Angeles County supervisors are considering an overhaul of the county's system for defending juveniles accused of crimes. Under-age criminal defendants who can't afford a lawyer are generally represented by someone from the county public defender's office. But when that office is already representing another defendant in the case or a special circumstance arises, lawyers from a separate panel step in to remove the potential conflict of interest.
  • Multnomah County, Oregon, Taps Federal Dollars for New Juvenile Justice Program (The Oregonian)
    A new Multnomah County initiative to keep wayward kids with their families and out of jail could spur big changes to the youth corrections system statewide. On Tuesday, leaders from the county's Department of Community Justice announced plans to tap into federal money to help at-risk youth stay at home or in foster care while they are on probation, instead of shipping them to a youth home or correctional facility.

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How Laura Nissen is Changing the World

Congratulations to Reclaiming Futures founder and former national director Laura Nissen on her appointment as dean of Portland State University's School of Social Work.
Laura is a tireless advocate for vulnerable people and works especially hard on behalf of communities helping teens overcome mental illness, drugs, alcohol and crime.
Do you have a fond memory of Laura or kudos to share? Please add your congratulations in the comments section below.

Obama Wants to Stop "School-to-Prison Pipeline" for Minorities

A recent Los Angeles Times article reports, "President Obama plans to launch an initiative aimed at improving the lives of young black and Latino men by bringing businesses and foundations together with government agencies to change what an administration official called the 'school-to-prison pipeline.'" In addition:

The initiative, which Obama calls "My Brother's Keeper," is to be unveiled Thursday, the official said. It will mark the latest in a series of efforts by the president to spur social change outside the stalemated legislative process.
The move also represents an escalation of Obama's efforts to directly target the problems faced by young men of color.
During the last five years, Obama has met privately with groups of minority teenagers and young men in their communities and at the White House. But in his State of the Union speech, Obama pledged to go further, saying he would bring more of his resources as president to bear on the social problems that get in the way of success for minority youth.

See our past reporting on the school-to-prison pipeline here >>

What You Need to Know About Heroin Addiction; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • White Paper: Need to Reform Mental Health Treatment for Incarcerated Youth (
    National mental health organizations and experts are calling for reforming mental health services for incarcerated youth after recent reports revealed startlingly high numbers of mental health disorder in the population.
  • Documentary Confronts Bias In Conn. Juvenile Justice System (
    By most accounts, Connecticut has made tremendous progress in reforming its juvenile justice system. But there's one serious problem remaining: racial disparities in the youths who are sent to juvenile lockups. That's the thrust of a recent Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network documentary, a production sponsored by the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and paid for with federal funds.
  • SCREENING: JUST US Shines Light on the Epidemic of Generational Imprisonment (Just Us)
    JUST US, a documentary from filmmaker Nyjia Jones, carefully examines one of the biggest problems plaguing the justice system — the epidemic of generational imprisonment.

Topics: News, No bio box

Juvenile Treatment Drug Court Grant: Apply by March 17

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is accepting applications to expand and/or enhance substance abuse treatment services in existing adult Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts (which are the tribal version of adult drug courts) and in Juvenile Treatment Drug Courts (tribal or non-tribal) which use the treatment drug court model in order to provide alcohol and drug treatment, including the following, to defendants/offenders:

  • Recovery support services 
  • Screening
  • Assessment
  • Case management
  • Program coordination