Blog: No bio box

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.

Lessons Learned from Snohomish County Reclaiming Futures: Systems 101 Event

Reclaiming Futures Snohomish County, Washington, held a “Systems 101” event on October 4th, 2013. This event was the brainstorm of Kathy Haggerty (project director), Michele Rastovich (community fellow) and Janelle Sgrignoli (juvenile justice fellow/drug courts manager).
The idea was borrowed from a previous event, when the team worked in different capacities for Snohomish County. They wanted to convene all the child-serving systems to ensure that everyone knew what services existed, how to access them, provide time to meet the “faces” of the system and to reaffirm the community’s commitment to the Reclaiming Futures Vision for Our Kids which was developed at the start of 2013.

Cora Crary (CC): Tell me more about the Systems 101 event you held in Snohomish County.
Kathy Haggerty (KH): The purpose of the event was to increase awareness of the Reclaiming Futures initiative and our vision while forming new and strengthening existing relationships and partnerships, learn from each other, and realize the strengths that exist within our community. The outcomes I hoped for and shared with everyone at the start of the day were: that they left inspired, better informed, better connected, and activated. Based on the evaluations, we met these outcomes.

CC: How many people attended?
KH: We had approximately 100 registrants with representatives from education, Division of Child and Family Services, health care, mental health, chemical dependency professionals, justice staff, youth care and residential services staff, aspiring mentors, and, of course, our Change Team members.

CC: How did you advertise?
KH: We created an invitation in Constant Contact and distributed it to 200-300 people through a number of existing listservs in our community. We also posted the event on our local Reclaiming Futures website.

CC: What information was shared?
KH: Our keynote speaker, Diana Gale, from the University of Washington gave a presentation titled, “Passion, Complexity, Collaboration: Making System Change Work for our Kids,” which was a big hit – people found her message very helpful in terms of specific and concrete ways to do large scale systems change.
We also had a series of concurrent workshops about the juvenile justice system and juvenile justice reforms, juvenile drug court, child and family services, substance abuse treatment, the Seven Challenges evidence-based practice modality, foster care, children’s mental health, education, trauma, victims of minor sex trafficking, engaging homeless and at-risk youth, engaging families, and program evaluation.

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New Year Brings Cautious Hope for Mental Health Care; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Op-Ed: Trauma and Triumph in Family Court (
    "Shortly before Christmas, I returned a phone call from a woman whose 12-year-old stepgrandson wanted to end court-ordered visitation with his non-custodial mother. As I was about to tell her that I no longer practice law and am retired from the bench, she mentioned the mother’s name – let’s call her Amanda – and a flood of memories came to me. Hang with me, please. This is a story of complex family relations and problems and one that exemplifies the challenges, as well as the benefits, of engaging families in changing juvenile behaviors."
  • Activists Push for Juvenile Justice System Reforms (Al Jazeera America)
    Critics argue detention centers wrongly focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation for young people.
  • New Law Keeps Some Juveniles Out of Detention Centers (
    Changes in Georgia’s Juvenile justice laws could save taxpayers money in the new year. Currently, it costs $90,000 a year per child who is placed in a juvenile detention center. With this new program, kids who commit non-violent crimes may not have to go there, but instead serve their sentence at home, saving tax payers millions.

Topics: News, No bio box

Demonstrating Success: How Ventura County Won $600,000 Grant

One of the greatest pleasures of working with Reclaiming Futures is getting to know juvenile justice leaders around the country—and celebrating their successes.
A great example is the team in Ventura County, California, who recently received a $600,000 two-year, Second Chance Act grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to serve young people with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. 
Because Ventura County Reclaiming Futures has demonstrated success—and funders like to invest in promising practices—they continue to attract partners to help teens overcome the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
Keep up the great work, Ventura County!

NCMHJJ Announces New Resource Center

The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) recently created a new resource center, Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change, to continue to advance the juvenile justice reforms initiated by the states participating in Models for Change. Via the announcement:

The Collaborative for Change promotes the mental health reforms that came from Models for Change by supporting their adaptation, replication, and expansion in the field. Its primary areas of focus include critical topics such as: mental health screening, diversion models, mental health training for juvenile justice staff and police, evidence-based practices, family involvement, and juvenile competency. We offer a 24/7 online Resource Center, a Help Desk, and are available to provide consultation and technical assistance.  

Watch the video below to learn more about how mental health treatment can help teens:

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

Below you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!


Montgomery County Celebrates New Community Partnerships

On December 4, 2013 two Montgomery County organizations were recognized for their dedication to serving Court-involved youth in their community: K12 Art Gallery (pictured left below) and Union Savings Bank (pictured right below). Judge Nick Kuntz and Judge Anthony Capizzi joined staff from Montgomery County Juvenile Court’s Probation Department, Reclaiming Futures, and Nicholas Residential Treatment Center at the Department of Youth Services Community Recognition Awards Luncheon. Montgomery County was the only County to have two programs recognized in their community.
K12 Union Savings Bank
K12 Gallery has provided arts exposure to the young people we serve through the HAALO Program. The HAALO (Helping Adolescents Achieve Long-term Objectives) Program was created by the staff at K12/TEJAS Art Gallery, in partnership with the staff at Montgomery County Juvenile Court, to expose Court-involved youth to different mediums of art while also teaching them life skills that will assist them in being successful members of our community. Arts exposure can be an integral asset building tool for our young people; from critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills to creativity, motivation, and patience-the therapeutic process of the HAALO Program has endless benefits for the young people involved.
The staff and artists at K12 have the ability to see something special in our young people, even when they are completely shut down. They are persistent in helping these youth realize their full potential. Because of K12’s commitment to our youth, the HAALO program continues to motivate all the youth involved by giving them a chance to follow their dreams and develop their strengths while instilling a sense of responsibility for one’s community. K12 is changing the lives of many youth who would have otherwise gone uninspired.
Union Savings goes above and beyond to support Juvenile Court programming by funding once in a life time opportunities for the boys at Nicholas Residential Treatment Center. In a typical year, Union Savings Bank will easily sponsor over a half dozen events. In just the past year these activities include: hosting a softball tournament (with door prizes for the kids) for the entire Court and surrounding governmental agencies, taking the youth to a Cincinnati Reds game, attending Dayton Dragons baseball games, having a pumpkin carving contest, going to a corn maze, sponsoring 5K runs, touring the Ohio Caverns, Zip Lining, admission to Scene 75, and Kings Island tickets.
On top of all this, they also always feed the large group of hungry boys. What’s more important is that the staff at Union Savings Bank attends all these activities with the boys. This is an excellent opportunity for these young men to build relationships with professional adults who can serve as positive role models as they are making better choices to transition back to their community.

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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.

A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools

A new policy brief from The Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice, A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools, reveals that zero tolerance discipline policies do not make schools more orderly or safe.
In addition Vera outlines a brief history of juvenile crime, which helps explain the policy climate:

Although the juvenile crime rate peaked in 1994 and declined steadily over the next decade, the idea that young people should be feared stuck. In 1996, political scientist John DiIulio predicted a coming wave of young “super-predators.” Following the massacre in 1999 at Columbine High School, people across the country worried that the next devastating school shooting would occur in their town. This is the climate in which zero tolerance policies proliferated and also expanded to encompass a wide range of misconduct much less harmful than bringing a weapon to school.

Learn about the negative effects of pushing students out of school and read about alternatives to zero tolerance in the full report.

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

Below you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!


Our Most Popular Videos of 2013: Number One

"What Do Teens in Prison Need to Be Successful?"
Here it is! Our most popular video of 2013. Although this video was created back in 2011, it saw a surge of popularity with the new Netflix show, Orange is the New Black. See some of Piper Kerman's recommendations here, or watch the video in full below. 
Piper Kerman, author of "Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison," shares her perspective on what incarcerated teens need to be successful, based on her own experiences in a federal prison.

Topics: No bio box

Our Most Popular Videos of 2013: Number Two

"Reclaiming Futures Stories: Graffiti Artist, Guy, Gives Back"
Our second most popular YouTube video of the year! Through Reclaiming Futures mentors and the support of Snohomish County, a well-known graffiti artist named Guy, in Everett, Washington, gets his life back and creates a public mural.

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How to Help More Young People in 2014

Thank you for supporting Reclaiming Futures this year. By improving drug and alcohol treatment and connecting teens to positive activities and caring adults, we have:

  • Helped many young people stay out of trouble with the law,
  • Improved public safety, and
  • Cut the cost of crime to communities.

Whether you are a Reclaiming Futures fellow in one of our 37 sites, or a member of our online community, we appreciate you.
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?
Please spread the word about Reclaiming Futures' proven six-step model by connecting us to leaders interested in improving outcomes for young people in juvenile detention.  
Improve the way more communities treat kids in the justice system with substance abuse problems by sharing our online resources or by contacting me via email at or by phone at 503-725-8914. 
We look forward to working with you in 2014 to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime! 

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

Below you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!


Our Most Popular Videos of 2013: Number Three

"Reclaiming Futures Stories: How an Artist Mentor Helped Natalie"
Through Reclaiming Futures Snohomish County, and the Promising Artists in Recovery (PAIR) mentors, Natalie gives up life on the streets to follow her dream of studying photography. This video received the third highest views on our YouTube channel in 2013 and we're excited to share it again.

Topics: No bio box

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.

How to Help Teens in Detention During the Holidays

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2010, but we thought you might find it useful.juvenile-justice-system_scraggly-tree-with-one-christmas-bulb-institutional-setting
We know that teens in the juvenile justice system generally have better outcomes when they're connected with their families while they're detained or incarcerated. During the holidays, their feelings of isolation and despair are magnified (and their family members often feel the same way). 
It can make all the difference to have someone remember them during the holidays, and it can be a great opportunity to partner with community organizations. 
Don't know what to do?  Then check out this excellent Holiday Toolkit from the Campaign for Youth Justice. (Be patient - I find the PDF can take a while to load.) It can help you plan:

  • a party or special event at the detention facility (or wherever the youth are locked up);
  • a holiday gift-giving event;
  • a walk-through of the facility by legislators or local policy makers; or
  • a holiday-card campaign.

It's even got sample language for cards, invitations, and a media advisory.  Try it -- and let us know how it goes!

Informed Journalism: Reporting on Teens and Mental Health

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) recently hosted a webinar exploring issues around journalism and juvenile justice system. Via JJIE:
Say you've just been assigned to do a story on a 15-year-old kid in trouble with the law. She's got drug problems, she may have mental health issues -- is her story unusual? If her probation officer tells you the girl has been sent to treatment, but it "didn't work," how do you know what questions to ask next?
Get the answers and more in this webinar, where you'll learn about:

  • the actual prevalence of mental health and alcohol and drug issues among young people in the juvenile justice system;
  • why effective treatment is critical to safe communities;
  • how treatment services are funded and regulated;
  • where to go for information about treatment funding and programs in your jurisdiction.

About the presenter: Benjamin Chambers is a writer and editor specializing in juvenile justice who currently works as communications specialist for the National Juvenile Justice Network. Prior to that, he spent seven years working for the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice in Portland Oregon, where he directed the local Reclaiming Futures project.

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

Below you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!