Blog: Prevention

What’s in a Number? Age Considerations in Justice Decisions

Research shows that adolescents have a high propensity for engaging in risk taking activities given the significant changes in neurology, biology, and other developmental issues (e.g., social; cultural; familial) they experience. Specifically related to decision-making, science shows the pre-frontal cortex region of the brain is underdeveloped until a young person is well into their 20’s.  With these findings in mind, how should this influence the way we think about key juvenile justice policies and practices like the age of juvenile jurisdiction?

Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health

There are so many noteworthy aspects to the “first ever” Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. For example, it is grounded in the best evidence available to date and it examines issues of neurobiology, prevention, treatment, recovery, and health care systems. It also has educational and promotional materials such as fact sheets and social media ideas and resources. If you have not reviewed it – now is the time. It’s my understanding that additional fact sheets are forthcoming including one on criminal/juvenile justice populations. As such, keep visiting the website for updates and let’s keep talking about this report and its importance to individuals, families, and communities impacted by substance misuse and/or disorders.

Mark Your Calendars: Faces & Voices of Recovery Awards on June 26

We're excited to announce the Faces & Voices of Recovery event, America Honors Recovery, recognizing the impact that individuals can have on recovery. 

Faces & Voices of Recovery will honor leaders in the addiction recovery movement, highlighting the extraordinary contributions of the country's most influential recovery community leaders and organizations at America Honors Recovery. The event, sponsored with Caron Treatment Centers, honors the exceptional energy, commitment, dedication and creativity of these individuals and organizations in advocating for the rights of people and their families in or seeking recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
WHERE: Carnegie Institute for Science, 1530 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
WHEN: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Prevention: What is Working?

Today at 1pm Eastern, Native America Calling is discussing culturally-sensitive best practices for prevention efforts. They will have a special focus on substance abuse prevention with Native American populations.
From the show's description:

What is the best way to teach about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse? We all know the famous “Just Say No” campaign of the 1980s. It had mixed reviews and results. Other campaigns used catch phrases like “above the influence,” “I learned it by watching you” and “this is your brain on drugs, any questions?” How effective are these campaigns? What about campaigns directed at Native Americans? How do cultural public service announcements influence the rates of use? Have programs like this worked in your community? Join us for part five of our series on addiction. Guests include: Classical guitarist and youth advocate, Gabriel Ayala (Yaqui).

Illinois Community Trading Guns for Groceries and Social Services

Gun buyback programs have been hosted for decades from Los Angeles to New Jersey, with goals of reducing the number of illegal guns on the street and offering citizens a chance to turn in weapons without fear of being arrested.
Gun buybacks also provide an opportunity to build relationships with vulnerable young people. St. Clair County Reclaiming Futures, one of 29 Reclaiming Futures communities, is promoting an upcoming event in their area.
The New Life Community Church, with assistance from the St. Clair County State Attorney's Office in Illinois, is sponsoring a gun buyback on Saturday, August 25, 2012.
Participants will be eligible for a $25 grocery gift card in exchange for each gun they turn in. They can also receive consultation and (in some cases immediate) assistance in a variety of areas—from health and education to transportation and housing.
Please pass this along to your colleagues in St. Clair County who are working with teens to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
When: August 25, 2012
Time: 12:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Where: 2931 State Street, East St. Louis, Illinois
Has your community offered a gun buyback program? If so, we'd like to hear about the positive results.

Resiliency During Early Teen Years can Protect Against Later Alcohol, Drug Use

Resiliency is a measure of a person’s ability to flexibly adapt their behaviors to fit the surroundings in which they find themselves. Low resiliency during childhood has been linked to later alcohol/drug problems during the teenage years. A new study has examined brain function and connectivity to assess linkages between resiliency and working memory, finding that higher resiliency may be protective against later alcohol/drug use.
Results will be published in the August 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.
“Research in the 1980’s found that lower resiliency in children between three to four years old was related to subsequent adolescent drug usage,” said Barbara J. Weiland, a researcher at The University of Michigan and corresponding author for the study. “We subsequently found that low resiliency measured in preschoolers was associated with onset of alcohol use by age 14 and of drunkenness by age 17.”

SAMHSA, Local Communities Take Action to Curb Underage Drinking

This fall, SAMHSA plans to launch "Talk. They Hear You."—its third National Underage Drinking Campaign. With the help of a panel of experts to guide research, objectives, and strategies, SAMHSA has focused the campaign on engaging parents of youth ages 9 to 15 in prevention behaviors and motivating them to talk to their kids before there is a problem. The campaign aims to provide parents with practical advice, information, and tools to support their role as influencers on their child's decision not to drink.
Drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal in the U.S., yet according to SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2010, approximately 10 million youth ages 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Underage drinking increases the risk of academic failure, illicit drug use, and tobacco use. And as a leading contributor to death from injuries for people under age 21, underage drinking continues to be a public health concern with serious consequences for youth, their families, and their communities.
In 2006, Congress passed the Sober Truth on Preventing (STOP) Underage Drinking Act that requires the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish and enhance the efforts of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking. It is through the STOP Underage Drinking Act that SAMHSA's Underage Drinking Prevention National Media Campaign is mandated.

Prison or Prevention: Maltreated Children and the Juvenile Justice System

Over the last 20 years, numerous studies have confirmed that children who experience maltreatment are more likely to be referred/arrested for delinquent offenses. Maltreated children have also been found to more likely become involved in the adult criminal justice system. In fact, a 2004 National Institute of Justice study found maltreated children to be 11 times more likely than a matched control group to be arrested, and 2.7 times more likely to be arrested as an adult.
In 2011, the California Senate Office of Research released findings about the foster care experiences of California prison inmates who were scheduled to be paroled within eight months of June 2008. This research found that of the 2,549 polled inmates, 316 men and 40 women (14%) had been in foster care sometime during their youth and half of this percentage had been placed in group homes.
As a result of these studies, several child protective service (CPS) agencies, including the Department of Children and Family Services in Los Angeles County (LA), have joined forces with their counterparts in the juvenile justice system to collaboratively service youth who were concurrently involved in both of these systems. These youth are commonly referred to as “crossover” youth. While LA was observing some initial positive outcomes from these teaming efforts, two leaders [1] involved in the effort wondered if it was possible through research to identify which of the maltreated children were the most likely to become delinquent. If this was possible, then perhaps new practices could be adopted to prevent these youth from becoming delinquent, thereby increasing the likelihood that these most at-risk youth would become productive adults versus adult criminals.

Take Action During National Prevention Week: Prevent Illicit Drug Use and Prescription Drug Abuse

Sometimes people cope with difficult life situations or seek new experiences in harmful ways, such as experimenting with drugs to try to overcome stress or feel something new. Others assume that if they’re not using an illegal drug, but a medication prescribed by a doctor, it’s safe to do so. However, illicit drug use and the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs are always dangerous and can lead to addiction, impaired decision-making, increased risk of psychosis, and severe physical consequences, including seizures, heart failure, and even death.
The goal of today’s National Prevention Week theme is to raise awareness about preventing drug use and abuse in the United States. In 2010, there were an estimated 23 million people aged 12 and older in the U.S. who were current illicit drug users, and 7 million Americans reported using prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes. With the right tools, facts, and resources, you can take action to prevent illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse in your own community:

  • If you’re a parent, get involved in your child’s day-to-day activities and discuss the risks of using illicit and prescription drugs;
  • If you’re a teacher, create positive learning environments by setting high expectations for positive social interactions and addressing inappropriate behavior; and
  • If you’re a community leader, learn about effective prevention programs, such as those listed through SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, an online registry of more than 200 proven prevention interventions.
  • If you’re an interested community member, visit the National Prevention Week Events page to get involved in an event taking place in your area, or to get inspiration for event ideas for your community.

Transitioning At-Risk Youth to Adulthood

In their article, Vulnerable Populations and the Transition to Adulthood, D. Wayne Osgood, E. Michael Foster, and Mark E. Courtney explain that while the transition from adolescence to adulthood is a rocky road for working-class non-college-bound youth, it is even more uncertain for vulnerable populations, such as those involved with the juvenile or criminal justice systems. For these youth, activities are more restricted, making it harder to obtain a college education or develop stable relationships that could increase their chances of success as adults. Among fathers, incarceration has been linked to lower earnings and education, homelessness and material hardship, as well as poorer relationship skills, according to findings from the Fragile Families Study. Effective programs and policies are needed to help protect against these hardships and provide a less troubled transition to adulthood.

One effort to provide support to youth in the criminal justice system is to provide GED and other educational opportunities in correctional facilities. An example of this effort is Princeton University's Prison Teaching Initiative, which operates in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Corrections and Mercer County Community College (MCCC) to provide access to MCCC accredited college courses at New Jersey correctional facilities. Faculty, staff, graduate students, and other Princeton affiliates with advanced degrees volunteer to teach courses in several disciplines. Another example is the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program, a volunteer-based program in Princeton that recruits and trains students and community members to tutor and teach in nearby correctional facilities.

Using Graffiti to Improve Teen Outcomes in Denver

Graffiti is a common sight in the neighborhood around the Access Art Gallery in Denver – not inside, hanging on the walls – but scribbled, pasted or painted on nearly every dumpster and wall for blocks.
“There’s a lot of kids going back and forth through the neighborhood. There was tagging all over the place,” says Damon McLeese, the gallery’s executive director.
Like many places across the country, Denver’s streets show scars of vandalism: Stickers on street signs, scrawls of fat-tipped markers across doorways, and spray paint arching down from seemingly impossible heights.
But where many businesses would have seen an unstoppable scourge of youth defacing private property, McLeese saw an opportunity for a project that would redirect some of the kids’ creative energies and help improve the community.

Q&A: Lawanda Ravoira of the National Girls Institute on Helping Girls Steer Clear of the Juvenile Justice System

Lawanda Ravoira
Lawanda Ravoira

Each year thousands of young women run away from home. To survive, some girls steal. Some sell their bodies for money or a place to stay. Many use drugs and alcohol to cope with life on the streets. Eventually, many girls end up in the juvenile justice system.
The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth recently spoke with Lawanda Ravoira, director of the National Girls Institute, about how to keep homeless young women out of trouble, out of jail and engaged with programs that provide support.
NCFY: Which girls are most at risk for becoming involved in the juvenile justice system?
Ravoira: Girls become involved in the system from all over, but one of the first predictors is school failure (uneven grades, suspensions and expulsions). The other big thing is trauma. We know that 92 percent of girls entering juvenile justice have been victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Girls coming into the system have much higher rates of trauma and victimization than boys.
NCFY: How do girls respond to trauma differently from boys?

Miss America shares a story with children of incarcerated parents

I’m so very proud of the new Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler. First, because she is from my hometown of Kenosha, Wis., and second, because she’s used her own experience to help a lot of hurting kids. If you don’t know Ms. Kaeppeler’s story, it begins when her father, Jeff, was arrested when she was a 14-year-old high-schooler. He went to trial and was sent to serve 18 months in federal prison for mail fraud when she was at Carthage College studying music.
This impacted Laura’s life, much like the other estimated 10 million children who will experience having a parent imprisoned. She started a mentoring nonprofit called Circles of Support to assist children living with a parent behind bars.
According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 3 percent of Americans live either behind bars, under parole supervision or on probation. This means that more than 7.2 million adults in 2009 lived under the shadow of a court sentence. An additional 86,927 juveniles were living in juvenile correctional facilities.
That’s a LOT of kids being impacted. And since most people who are serving time in a prison have a sentence from 3-15 years, it can take a huge chunk out of a childhood spent with a parent. How do we help children with such massive holes in their lives to keep them from following their parents into the juvenile justice or prison systems?

Arguing with parents helps teens stand up to peer pressure

A new study from the University of Virgina found that teens who are comfortable expressing their opinions at home are better able to resist peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol. 
As Science Newsline explains:

The researchers looked at more than 150 teens and their parents, a group that was racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse. The teens were studied at ages 13, 15, and 16 to gather information on substance use, interactions with moms, social skills, and close friendships. Researchers used not just the youths' own reports, but information from parents and peers. They also observed teens' social interactions with family members and peers.
They found that teens who hold their own in family discussions were better at standing up to peer influences to use drugs or alcohol. Among the best protected were teens who had learned to argue well with their moms about such topics as grades, money, household rules, and friends. Arguing well was defined as trying to persuade their mothers with reasoned arguments, rather than with pressure, whining, or insults.


3 ways to address teenage motivation to drink that don’t involve scare tactics

When someone – including a teenager – gets treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, it is standard practice to identify some of the reasons why they started using and the benefits they feel they get from these substances. This helps them reduce shame and best identify their triggers and areas to focus on. Among the research, most reasons for using alcohol fall into a few broad categories such as mood or personality enhancement, social reasons, and coping reasons. Reviewing personal motivations for using alcohol is often an “ah-ha” experience for the person seeking help but it needs to be handled with care as there is the potential in such a discussion to make alcohol use seem more appealing.
Nowhere is this concern greater than when attempting to prevent alcohol use in teens as many parents have a justified fear that such a discussion will promote alcohol use in kids who may not have otherwise been aware of the potential short-term “benefits” of alcohol. This fear has often caused parents and caregivers to avoid the topic, focus only on the consequences of drinking or minimize the reasons why people drink – especially with younger children. While reinforcing the consequences of underage drinking is always recommended, understanding teen’s motivations can also be useful to parents as a point for both prevention and early intervention of teenage drinking. Below are a few tips on using teen motivations to intervene and connect with your children.
A useful strategy is to ask teens about what they “expect” to get from drinking. Along with perceived risk, your teen’s alcohol use can be predicted by the expectation that one will feel a certain way when they drink. These expectations are reinforced by the media and by your teen’s peers. Expectations are essentially motivating (I want to relax and I will drink because I expect that it will help me relax). The first step is to identify what your teens think about drinking’s benefits or what drinking may give them. If you can identify the reasons they think people drink (or they drink), it is a point of intervention.
Tailor Your Strategy: Based on the motivations or expectations your teen mentions reports there are several options to continue the conversation.

12/14 WEBINAR: Above the influence

Reclaiming Futures is hosting a free webinar on December 14, 2011, at 11 am PT (2 pm ET) on the "Above the Influence" campaign to help teens stand up to negative pressures and influences. 
The webinar will focus on the updated “Above the Influence” campaign toolkit, provide instructions on how to implement the two new youth activities featured in the toolkit and lessons learned from Houston. It will be followed by a Q&A session.
Featured presenters include:

  • Mark Krawczyk (Office of National Drug Control Policy)
  • Sandy Olson (Coalition of Behavioral Health Services Houston)
  • Kay Crockett (Coalition of Behavioral Health Services Houston)

Space is limited! Register now.

Reclaiming Futures in Ohio

In Ohio, Reclaiming Futures fellow Carol Martin was featured in the Logan Daily News Reporter for her work to combat drug abuse by providing educational materials to local educators and agencies.
After learning about local teen drug abuse, Carol ordered booklets from the Foundation for a Drug-Free World (which you can request here) and began bringing them to schools. The booklets detail each kind of drug, its nicknames, and short and long term effects on the human body and mind. It also includes information on what happens when teens combine drugs and other substances.
From the article:

Carol Martin, a member of Reclaiming Futures, a community coalition designed to mentor and assist youth in the community, says she believes the materials will be useful to both educators and parents. “I thought it would be great for the schools, and it’s a different way than just sitting and talking about drugs,” she said.

After using the booklets in North Carolina, that state saw a 40% decrease in the number of deaths or accidental poisonings, and Carol is hopeful that they will have a similar effect in Ohio. 
Great job, Carol! Keep up the good work and please keep us updated on your progress.