News Release – May 11, 2009

Contact: Mac Prichard
(503) 517-2772

Reclaiming Futures National Program Director Named Social Worker of the Year in Oregon

Laura Nissen is honored by the National Association of Social Workers, Oregon Chapter.

Portland, OR (May 11, 2009) — Laura Nissen, the national program director of Reclaiming Futures, has been named 2009 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Oregon Chapter.

The award recognizes social workers who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and services provided to Oregon’s individuals, families and communities. Recipients are involved in activities that uphold the goals of NASW: leadership in the human services, willingness to take risks and to enlist public support for improved social services, evidence of personal integrity, a capacity to increase public knowledge in their area of expertise, and personal representation of the ideals embodied in the NASW Code of Ethics.

“We are so pleased to honor Laura Nissen with this award,” said Stacey Skala Orr, executive director of NASW Oregon Chapter with more than 1,800 members. “Dr. Nissen has not only helped create and lead a national movement that is changing the way juvenile courts treat teens with drug and alcohol problems, she has also made important contributions to state public policy here in Oregon.”

Nissen serves as the national program director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program Reclaiming Futures, which helps teens in trouble with drugs, alcohol and crime. She has led Reclaiming Futures through conceptualization, demonstration and dissemination. As national program director, Laura has written extensively about the lessons of the initiative, and is a regular speaker at national meetings on juvenile justice reform and substance abuse treatment. Laura also recently completed a term on the Oregon Governor’s Council on Drug and Alcohol Programs as well as worked with state and federal agencies to encourage recognition and use of strength-based methods for young people.

Nissen is an associate professor at Portland State University’s School of Social Work where her research focuses on qualitative research methods, system reform issues, and communication tools for social change. She received both her M.S.W. and Ph.D. from the University of Denver, Graduate School of Social Work.

“It is such an honor to be recognized by my fellow social workers here in Oregon,” said Nissen. “My discovery of the profession was a great day in my life, and I continue to have tremendous pride in the work done by my colleagues all over the world for social justice and for healthy communities.”

About Reclaiming Futures
Reclaiming Futures is an initiative created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that offers a new approach to helping teenagers caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. Soon to be in 26 communities across the nation, the program has received additional investments to spread its model from RWJF, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. The national office of Reclaiming Futures is housed in the Regional Research Institute of the Graduate School of Social Work at Portland State University. For more information, please visit

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 35 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. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.