Blog: Reclaiming Futures

Webinar: Increasing Family Voice in the Juvenile Justice System

Why is a family voice significant in the juvenile justice system? I’m addressing this question in aOlivia September 19 webinar, along with Sandra Spencer of the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health.

We’ll discuss why family voice is crucial to the success of and support of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. As an advocate for substance abuse and mental health treatment for teens, Reclaiming Futures helps families connect to the community support resources needed for adolescents to stay clean and sober, and become a productive member of society.

Here are three takeaways you’ll gain from attending this webinar:

  • Understand and discuss why family and youth voice is critical
  • How to incorporate family voice into practice in the juvenile justice system
  • Learn how Reclaiming Futures sites have successfully integrated family voice


  • What: Webinar—Increasing Family Voice in the Juvenile Justice System
  • When: Friday, September 19, 3-4 p.m. EDT
  • Presenters: Sandra Spencer, Executive Director, National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health; Susan Richardson, National Executive Director, Reclaiming Futures;
  • Register: Register here
  • Cost: Free
  • Contact: If you are unable to listen from your computer and need to call in, please email

Celebrate Recovery Month: Tune Into the White House Special Event September 17

You’re invited to tune into a live broadcast of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on September 17 at 2-4pm ET. This White House special event celebrates the 25th anniversary of the National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

The event will celebrate the millions of individuals who have reclaimed their lives by overcoming addiction, and those who have persevered with them to aid their success.

You can help recognize these individuals at the event by tweeting questions and comments to @Botticelli44 using the hashtag #RecoveryatWH at any time prior to or during the event. Questions will be selected and posed to the panelists in recovery at the event.

Visit the live broadcast on September 17, or host a viewing party and register here.

With your help, we can take an important pause to highlight stories of recovery, uplift the negative stigma of addiction and take the next step toward a national commitment to recovery.

  • Who: You, your stakeholders, members and affiliates, and ONDCP
  • What: A ONDCP White House special event viewing party
  • Where: Your venue of choice +
  • When: September 17th | 2 – 4pm EST
  • Contact: Nataki MacMurray at or (202) 395-5510


Compassionate Canine Joins Snohomish County’s Juvenile Drug Treatment Court

Lucy and Judge Dingledy

Meet Lucy.

Lucy is one of two highly trained therapy dogs in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Lucy has several important roles.

She provides support and comfort to victims of trauma and abuse. Lucy helps break the ice when children are asked to talk about sexual and/or physical abuse. She is in the courtroom, hidden from jurors, sitting with children as they testify in court. Some families also request that Lucy sit with them as they watch the trials of people accused of killing their loved ones.

Lucy and  Juvenile Drug Court staff

Lucy is also the newest member of Snohomish County’s juvenile drug treatment court. She and her handler, Kathy Murray, attend staffing and are also present in the courtroom. Lucy lies near the bench on her blanket.  She provides support for the youth while in the courtroom.

She also helps the team. It’s tough on the team members when a youth has not succeeded in breaking free from their addiction.  Having Lucy there helps ease frustration and sadness and keeps the team focused on helping every youth in drug court have the best chance of success.

Kathy, Lucy’s handler, is also developing a program that will allow drug court youth who like animals to earn community service credit by working with Lucy one on one. As part of the program Kathy will provide a short training session to teach youth about giving commands and proper grooming. Not only will this teach the youth proper handling techniques, having Lucy follow their commands  will also provide them with a sense of accomplishment.

We’re very fortunate in Snohomish County to have a Prosecuting Attorney that cares so passionately about victims of trauma, their families and our drug courts.

We are also grateful to Canine Companions for Independence, a private non-profit organization that breeds and trains dogs, primarily for people with disabilities, for providing Lucy.


An Exciting Opportunity to Upgrade Your Juvenile Drug Court

Here’s an exciting opportunity to upgrade your juvenile drug court.


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recently released a solicitation for “OJJDP FY2014 Enhancements to Juvenile Drug Court”  which will provide up to eight juvenile drug courts with as much as $500,000 over three years.  The deadline for applications is July 23rd.  

The RFP states, “OJJDP will make awards to currently operating juvenile drug courts to enhance their capacity and the services they provide. A juvenile drug court provides comprehensive, developmentally appropriate, community-based services for youth who come in contact with the juvenile justice system due to alcohol or other drug use.”    The solicitation says OJJDP welcomes applications that involve two or more entities.

This grant is a great opportunity for communities interested in integrating Reclaiming Futures into their existing juvenile drug court.  As a partner to drug court applicants to this RFP, Reclaiming Futures could serve as a provider of technical assistance.  Reclaiming Futures has experience with data collection, the use of scientifically based screening and assessment procedures to identify youth in need of substance abuse and mental health services, staff training, family and community engagement, outcome monitoring and evaluation.

If your community is interested in applying for this grant and would like to learn how Reclaiming Futures fits into your proposal, contact Donna Wiench, Reclaiming Futures Strategic Partnership Director to learn more.

Helping Young People Get Treatment in Juvenile Justice and Beyond

Focal Point magazine, produced by the Pathways Research and Training Center (RTC) at Portland State University, recently published a collaborative article [PDF] between current and former Reclaiming Futures staff and partners examining how the Reclaiming Futures model saves money, reduces recidivism and improves abstinence from drug and alcohol abuse.
The article’s introduction is included below:

Why focus on the juvenile justice system? Despite the fact that most juvenile justice-involved young people are not being treated for substance abuse and mental health needs, the juvenile justice system is still the single largest referral source for adolescent treatment and this system is where young people in trouble often first come to our attention. Young people involved in the juvenile justice system often are challenged with substance use issues.
Nationally, about half of young people in the juvenile justice system have drug related problems. In fact, four of five young people in the juvenile justice system are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while breaking the law; test positive for drugs; are arrested for committing an alcohol or drug offense; admit having substance abuse and addiction problems; or share some combination of these characteristics.
Additionally, many young people in the juvenile justice system have a co-occurring disorder (both substance abuse and mental health). Yet in spite of research that shows treatment helps reduce recidivism and saves money, juvenile courts usually are not set up to detect and treat substance abuse or to provide mental health and other important services.
Instead, most of the young people in the juvenile justice system who need treatment for drugs, alcohol, and mental health problems are not getting it. Fewer than one in twelve young people who need such supports actually receive treatment of any kind. For those who receive treatment, less than half are retained for 90 days as recommended by research. Many communities are not using evidence-based treatments that have been tested in the field for many years.
Young people need different care than adults: care that addresses adolescent development and brain science, and that utilizes support from families and community. Too many juvenile courts mirror a more punitive approach appropriate to adult criminal court rather than the rehabilitative civil court envisioned when the juvenile court was first established in the late nineteeth century.

The good news is that there's already a solution to the issues outlined above: Reclaiming Futures! We know from our evaluations that the Reclaiming Futures model helps teens overcome the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime by addressing their co-occurring needs. Again from the article, "The Reclaiming Futures JTDC model has potential to increase drug and alcohol abstinence, reduce young people’s illegal activity, and reduce the cost of crime to society." 
Learn more about the Reclaiming Futures model here >>
For the rest of the article, jump to page 18 in the linked PDF for our Reclaiming Futures article, or scroll through the whole magazine for more great articles about co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues facing teens and young adults.

Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities

In 2008, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) convened the Commission to Build a Healthier America to find better ways to improve the health of our nation.
In their search for solutions, the Commissioners found that where we live, learn, work, and play profoundly influences our health.
The new recommendations, released January 13, are aimed at improving health now and for generations to come, and specifically highlight the need to:

  • Prioritize investments in America's youngest children.
  • Encourage leaders in different sectors to work together to create communities where healthy decisions are possible, with a particular emphasis on community development.
  • Challenge health professionals and health care institutions to expand their focus from treating illness to helping people live healthy lives.

Reclaiming Futures supports RWJF's effort and continues to unite juvenile courts, probation, mental health treatment, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth.
We'd love to hear from you. How can the Commission's recommendations change the way communities invest in young people? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below. 

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!

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! 

Supporting Systems Change in Reclaiming Futures Communities

Reclaiming Futures has helped communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime for more than 10 years. But how exactly does Reclaiming Futures accomplish systems change? We sat down with National Executive Director Susan Richardson to discuss the model and benefits of becoming a Reclaiming Futures site.
Lori Howell (LH): What makes Reclaiming Futures successful in a variety of communities across the country?  
Susan J. Richardson (SJR): Reclaiming Futures offers powerful tools and resources to communities helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime. We work to improve drug, alcohol and mental health treatment and connect teens to positive activities and caring adults.
LH: That sounds like quite a feat! How do you accomplish this? 
SJR: Reclaiming Futures unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, teen mental health treatment and the community to reclaim youth.

LH: Please tell us about the Reclaiming Futures model.
SJR:  The proven six-step Reclaiming Futures model unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth. Together this leadership team works for change to improve drug, alcohol and mental health treatment for teens and connect them to positive activities and caring adults.
LH: Please tell me more about the leadership team and how it functions.
SJR: The Reclaiming Futures Change Teams are organized into five groups: Judicial, Juvenile Justice, Substance Abuse Treatment, Community, and Project Director Fellowships. This change team also represents their local community at national Reclaiming Futures meetings. In addition to regular conference calls, each Fellowship has an annual meeting with their colleagues. Both the calls and meetings provide opportunities for Fellows to discuss implementation issues, professional topics, and seek the advice and support of colleagues as they work to implement the Reclaiming Futures model at the local level.

Welcome FellowshipProgram Manager, Christa Myers

I am pleased to introduce the newest member of the Reclaiming Futures National Program Office, Christa Myers.
Please see our conversation below to learn how you can help Christa achieve one of her goals in the first 90 days of work.
You'll also find out which famous animal she played at a youth conference. Please welcome Christa in the comments section below!
Susan J. Richardson (SJR)
Christa Myers (CM) 
SJR) What brings you to Reclaiming Futures?
CM) I have been working as Project Director/Juvenile Drug Court Program Coordinator at a Reclaiming Futures site for 5.5 years. I was hired for that position with a youth development background, having worked for:

  • Ohio State University Extension, Hocking County (4-H);
  • National Crime Prevention Council, Youth Division;
  • Sunday Creek Associates, Youth Entrepreneurial Project; and
  • Hocking County Juvenile Court/Children's Service, Summer Program for Girls.

I look forward to working on a national level to bring my strengths and skills from my work in Hocking County to the National Program Office.
SJR) What are you most interested in learning?
CM) I am most interested in learning more about each of our 37 sites. I have thoroughly enjoyed my coaching role with Hardin and Lucas Counties, Ohio, and Forsyth County, N.C., because I get to know more about their local work and can celebrate their successes along with them. I look forward to experiencing this with all the sites in the national learning collaborative.
SJR) What do you hope to achieve in your first 90 days at Reclaiming Futures?
CM) I am terrible with name recall, so I hope I will be able to associate names with roles and locations in the first 90 days. But please forgive me if I make mistakes!

New Innovation and Intellectual Property Report

Have you ever wondered how a great idea grows into a successful model and then spreads across the country? It doesn't happen on its own. Reclaiming Futures receives support from many sources, including the Portland State University (PSU) office of Innovation and Intellectual Property.
Reclaiming Futures is one of 10 projects featured in a new report about expanding the reach and nuturing the success of PSU initiatives from the office of Innovation and Intellectual Property:

Since our opening in 2008, we have aided the success and external distribution of research projects from a wide range of PSU departments and disciplines, from engineering and chemistry to linguistics and environmental science. Our focus is on use and impact, and we use intellectual property as a tool to shape how PSU innovations are used and deployed in the wider community.

The Reclaiming Futures model has spread from 10 to 37 sites, and we have welcomed funding support from four foundations and two federal agencies since 2001. 
We are grateful for the support and continue to maximize our impact in communities working to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
Please call 503-725-8914 to learn more about bringing Reclaiming Futures to your community

Multnomah County, Oregon, Stays “Smart on Crime”

The Office of National Drug Policy Control promotes a “smart on crime” approach that emphasizes prevention and access to treatment over incarceration in order to break the cycle of substance abuse, crime and re-arrest—especially among youth.
Programs like Reclaiming Futures Multnomah Embrace are furthering the goals of the smart on crime approach by engaging the right people to improve services for youth in the justice system and positively impact the community.
In 2006, the program partnered up with Write Around Portland and local mentoring agencies to publish “When You Were Fifteen,” a collection of stories from adults and youth about what it was like to be 15—the average age of youth in the local juvenile justice system. This book continues to raise awareness of the need for caring adult mentors in the lives of youth caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
More recently, Multnomah Embrace hosted a spring meet and greet fair to connect young people with services and activities available in their community.  The meet and greet also offered a panel of four teens from Lines for Life—a 24-hour teen-to-teen crisis, counseling and referral line. The teen panel members discussed the importance of healthy activities and shared personal stories of how these activities positively impacted their lives.

Webinar October 29: Deliver Scientific Facts About Drug Abuse to Teens

Do you need help talking to teens about the effects of drug abuse on the brain, body and behavior? If so, we have good news: you're invited to a free webinar on October 29.
Deliver the Scientific Facts About Drug Abuse to Teens During National Drug Facts Week, hosted by Reclaiming Futures, presented by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Sheri Grabus, Ph.D., Acting Press Officer, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
LaTonya Harris, Project Director, Reclaiming Futures Lucas County, Ohio
When: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. (EST)
You'll learn how to shatter the myths about drugs and drug addiction, like: 

  • “Marijuana isn’t addictive”
  • “Prescription drugs aren’t dangerous because we get them from doctors”
  • “Using drugs that aren’t prescribed to you is legal and you can’t get in trouble from it”
  • “Treatment doesn’t work”

Horse Therapy as Intervention Strategy for Young People

Winston Churchill once said, "There’s just something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." Horse therapy has indeed been proven effective in several different cases regarding mental health, addiction, physical therapy, and human development. Hardin County, Ohio is putting this idea to the test.
Hardin County Reclaiming Futures has partnered with Serenity Stables Therapeutic Center Inc. to provide horse therapy to youth in the juvenile system through the Horse and Youth program (H.A.Y.).
The H.A.Y. program will provide intervention strategies for the adjudicated youth who need a way to build self-confidence, leadership skills, and group interaction capabilities. The young people will have 12 weekly sessions to create a bond with their horse, as well as the people, of Serenity Stables.
“The horses do not care who you are, what trouble you have been in, or what problems you may have. Each youth will be able to establish a bond with an animal that is totally non-judgmental,” Judge Christopher, Hardin County Juvenile Court, explains.
This type of bond will serve to build confidence in the young people of Hardin County and help them develop a new, healthier mindset. Judge Christopher also believes the people of Serenity Stable, who have ample experience working with challenged youth, will serve to be positive role models for the participants.

Six Steps to Break the Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

Nearly 1 in 5 youth (17%) at the door of the juvenile justice system meet criteria for substance abuse disorders; in detention, 39% do. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only 1 in 16 young people with substance abuse disorders get into treatment
That's unfortunate, because while we need to hold teens accountable for their actions, simply locking them up does not work.
Effective adolescent substance abuse treatment can help teens stay out of trouble, make our communities safer, and save money.
The Reclaiming Futures model unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth. Together, they work to improve drug and alcohol treatment and connect teens to positive activities and caring adults.
Please call 503-725-8911 to learn how to bring the six steps of the Reclaiming Futures to your community:

Free Drug Facts Webinar October 29; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Justice Department Pushes New Thinking on Kids and Crime (
    Robert L. Listenbee, administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, advocates for understanding adolescent brain development to stop what experts describe as a "school-to-prison pipeline."
  • Bipartisan Support for Criminal Justice Reform (
    The current moment of government shutdown might seem the antithesis to bipartisanship. But one area in which bipartisanship is in evidence might offer some hope: criminal justice reform.
  • Nearly Half of U.S. States Enact Juvenile Justice Reforms (
    A new report from the Washington-based Campaign for Youth Justice finds that nearly half of U.S. states have made great strides in the past eight years toward reducing the prosecution of juveniles in the adult criminal justice system or preventing youths from being placed in adult jails and prisons.

Let’s Unite to Stop Bullying and Build Healthier Communities

The national program staff of Reclaiming Futures, communities helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime, is sporting orange today and celebrating some superstars in support of Unity Day and National Bully Prevention Month.
In 37 communities across the country, Reclaiming Futures experiences the excitement of helping kids build positive outcomes. But, without support for physical, social and emotional development, young people can run into problems, like bullying and substance abuse. Research shows a clear link between the two:

Because of the relationship between emotional health and substance abuse, we’re always cheering on colleagues who are working with young people and helping break the cycle early on.
Today we’re sending special kudos to Playworks, for empowering school staff and proactively managing students to reduce bullying behavior.
We are grateful to Playworks and all organizations that raise awareness and inspire action to prevent bullying and build healthier kids, communities and schools. Keep up the good work!