News Release – March 11, 2002

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Gives $2.59 Million in Grants to Help Troubled Youth in 11 States

PORTLAND, OR (March 11, 2002) — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation today awarded $2,590,378 in grants to help communities in 11 states improve substance abuse treatment and other services for young people in trouble with the law.

“America’s juvenile justice system faces a public health crisis,” says Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., director of Reclaiming Futures, a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “As many as four out of five of the two million young people who enter the justice system each year have an alcohol or drug problem.”

“Even though research shows that treating substance abuse reduces crime, saves money, and builds stronger communities,” says Nissen, “the vast majority of young offenders receives no treatment at all. We want to change this.”

The communities receiving awards are Anchorage, Alaska; Barron, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Concord, New Hampshire; Dayton, Ohio; Jackson, Kentucky; Marquette, Michigan; Mission, South Dakota; Portland, Oregon; Santa Cruz, California; and Seattle, Washington.

The 11 grants, which range in size between $200,000 and $250,000, will support the development of model programs that reinvent treatment, judicial and social services to meet what officials at The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation say has become an urgent local need.

“We know that too many kids are using alcohol and drugs,” says Kate Kraft, Ph.D., senior program officer at The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which launched Reclaiming Futures in May of 2000. “We also know that kids who abuse alcohol and drugs are more likely to behave violently, break the law, or end up in court.”

According to Kraft, juvenile drug abuse violations involving young people jumped 144 percent between 1987 and 1996. She also notes that up to two-thirds of young people in juvenile justice facilities receive no substance abuse treatment at all.

“Kids in the juvenile justice system with substance abuse problems don’t get the treatment and social services they need,” says Kraft. “Without it, many of them find themselves in trouble with the law again and again.

“These grants will help these communities break the costly cycle of substance abuse and delinquency,” says Kraft. “We need to reclaim, not throw away the lives of these young people.”

Beginning this month, juvenile court judges and officers, law enforcement officials, substance abuse treatment professional, and civic, youth and family leaders in the 11 communities nationwide will spend a year planning their programs. In four following years, sites can apply to receive up to $250,000 annually to implement the plans.

“These communities will not only expand and improve substance abuse treatment services,” says Dr. Kraft, “but most importantly, they will also create coordinated, efficient and effective systems of care that engage local residents and leaders and build on the strengths of families and kids. In doing so, our grant recipients will establish new systems that could serve as models for other communities.”

Reclaiming Futures officials say judicial leadership will play a critical part and each community has named up to two local judges to participate in a two-year fellowship.

“We know from experience that effective alcohol and drug treatment in the juvenile justice system requires active judicial stewardship,” says Don Owen Costello, an Oregon judge who oversees a judicial fellowship program for Reclaiming Futures. “To help the judges in these 11 communities do this job, we will provide our fellows with education in the skills they will need as they and their partners build new systems of care.”

Reclaiming Futures is a five-year $21 million initiative of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation based at the Graduate School of Social Work at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was established as a national philanthropy in 1972 and today is the largest U.S. foundation devoted to health and health care. To learn more about its mission and work, see www.rwjf.org.

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