News Release – February 22, 2007

Juvenile Probation Officers Call for New Responses to Teen Drug and Alcohol Use

A report by Reclaiming Futures probation recommends a ground-breaking approach to help teens in trouble with drugs and alcohol and crime

Portland, OR (February 22, 2007) — A national group of probation officers is recommending that juvenile justice leaders take 10 steps to break the cycle of teen drug use and crime. The officers, part of the Reclaiming Futures program funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and housed at Portland State University, issued their call to action in a new report, Juvenile Probation Officers Call for New Responses to Teen Drug and Alcohol Use and Dependency.

“We know teen alcohol and drug use is linked to juvenile crime. Yet, few alcohol-and-drug-involved teens in the system get the help they need,” said Laura Nissen, Reclaiming Futures national program director and associate professor at Portland State University Graduate School of Social Work. “Reclaiming Futures offers these young people more treatment, better treatment designed for their age group, and greater access to services beyond treatment such as mentors and jobs that will help them flourish in the community and stay out of trouble.”

The report, written by a group of juvenile probation officers with extensive experience in juvenile justice, outlines practical steps for other officers to follow in order to make changes in their own juvenile justice systems. The findings are based on the Reclaiming Futures model tested in 10 communities during the past five years. The ground-breaking approach screens each teen that enters the juvenile justice system for drug and alcohol problems, assesses the severity of their drug and alcohol use, and provides prompt access to a treatment plan coordinated by a service team. Reclaiming Futures also connects teens with employers, mentors, and volunteer service projects.

“This report is written by juvenile probation officers for other officers, treatment providers, family service agencies, policy makers and community leaders who work with teens in trouble with the law,” said Jeff Bidmon, a juvenile justice fellow for Reclaiming Futures and probation officer in Santa Cruz County Probation Department. “It draws on our success with Reclaiming Futures and is chock full of practical ideas and steps any community can use.”

The report offers 10 recommendations for juvenile justice practitioners who want to adopt the Reclaiming Futures approach, such as: collaborating with mental health providers, alcohol and drug treatment professionals, school administrators and community partners; knowing which services are available and appropriate for drug-involved youth; tailoring interventions based on the teen’s strengths, risk and needs; supporting staff to continue to learn about effective substance abuse treatment; promoting funding for family advocacy, wrap-around services and mentoring; and collecting and sharing data to help all agencies involved in this effort.

Juvenile Probation Officers Call for New Responses to Teen Drug and Alcohol Use and Dependency can be read in its entirety at www.reclaimingfutures.org.

About Reclaiming Futures
Reclaiming Futures is a $21 million initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation located in Anchorage, Alaska.; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; four counties in Southeastern Kentucky; Marquette, Mich.; the state of New Hampshire; the Sovereign Tribal Nation of Sicangu Lakota in Rosebud, South Dakota; Dayton, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle, Wash. In its fifth year, an evaluation conducted by the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago indicates the program has significantly improved the quality of juvenile justice and substance abuse treatment services across the 10 communities. Reclaiming Futures is housed in the Graduate School of Social Work at Portland State University. To learn more, visit www.reclaimingfutures.org.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.

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