Teens Talked Treatment to Oregon State Senators

Two youth advocates and their mothers One of the most important things anyone who cares about juvenile justice and teen substance use can do is to talk to their representatives about why treatment matters. 
That's exactly what a group of policy experts and youth advocates did yesterday, when they testified before the Oregon State Senate

committee on Health and Human Services. (Go here for the background, and a list of our many partners. UPDATE: Check out our two-part guide on how to educate your representatives here and here.)
Invited by Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson to present the findings of a statewide Adolescent Treatment Summit from last January, speakers talked about:

  • the importance of having a coordinated, statewide plan to improve delivery of teen alcohol and drug treatment services (about half the states in the U.S., including Oregon, lack such a plan);
  • the need to map all of the state's funding sources for adolescent treatment across the child welfare, juvenile justice, education, public health, and education systems to maximize their use;
  • the need to maintain services even in the face of severe budget cuts; and
  • the critical role that families must play in planning treatment services and participating in their children's care. 

Speakers included Gina Nikkel, of the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs; Donna Libemday of Oregon Partnership; and Sheila North of De Paul Treatment Centers (but representing the statewide treatment providers' association, OPERA). Each one provided articulate, succinct testimony that brought home the message. I also should thank Andy Smith, who described the work of the Statewide Childrens' Wraparound Initiative. [Go here for some of their testimony.]
But the stars of the show were youth advocates Shaeleen Turner and Vanessa Frias (shown in their photo above with their mothers, Lori, and Margarita). These young leaders spoke eloquently about the need for treatment services, and the critical difference treatment can make.
It'll be a while before we can be sure what impact this hearing had, especially in such grim economic times. But Committee members asked for additional information, and it's a safe bet they'll remember the stories Shae and Vanessa told.

This event took a long time to plan and put together. For logistics, we're grateful to Karen Wheeler and Diane Lia of Addictions and Mental Health; Tanya Pritt, Director of Yes House; and Melissa Moore. Thanks also to Bart Murray of New Directions Northwest and every stakeholder who participated in the Adolescent Treatment Summit for their contributions throughout. 
Good work, everyone! 

Updated: November 21 2008