News Release – June 25, 2008

Contact: Mac Prichard; 503-725-8921

New report details innovative ways to help teens struggling with
drugs, alcohol and crime

Portland, OR (June 25, 2008) — A national group of project directors today called on communities across the nation to better help teens beat drugs, alcohol and crime using a groundbreaking approach tested at 10 pilot sites. They have issued a national report which shares a six-step model to bring about change, reveals a road map for communities to plan for innovation, and offers step-by-step instructions and examples on how to implement this new way of helping teens in trouble.

The project directors oversee Reclaiming Futures initiatives funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Together, they have authored the report, How to Implement a Model to Get Youth Off Drugs and Out of Crime, based on six years of creating and testing new ways to help teens that enter the juvenile justice system and previously received little or no care for their drug or alcohol problems. The report describes how judges, probation officers, treatment specialists, families and community members can take steps right now to improve the future of these youth.

“When communities recognize this dire need and begin to work together to save these young people, real change can occur,” said Laura Nissen, Ph.D., Reclaiming Futures national program director. “The authors of this report are the feet on the ground pioneering new approaches to help teens in trouble. It is our hope that the lessons they’ve learned will assist and motivate others to address this pressing need.”

The Reclaiming Futures model recommends screening each teen for drug and alcohol problems, assessing the severity of his/her drug and alcohol use, providing prompt access to a treatment plan coordinated by a service team; and connecting the teen with employers, mentors, and volunteer service projects.

A recent independent evaluation by the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children shows this model is working. The evaluation found that communities that piloted the Reclaiming Futures model reported significant improvements in juvenile justice and drug and alcohol treatment. It also indicated change in the way juvenile justice and substance abuse agencies communicate and cooperate to serve youth and families.

“We have learned that there are concrete steps that can be taken to bring communities together to change they way they help teens in the system with drug and alcohol issues,” said Benjamin Chambers, project director for Reclaiming Futures Multnomah Embrace in Portland, Oregon who helped write the report. “For example, it’s important to identify a lead organization and champion, develop a common vision and mission, include community partners and youth, communicate, and measure results to help the changes last.”

More recommendations from the project directors can be read at where the report is posted in its entirety.

By 2009, the Reclaiming Futures model will be in up to 25 communities thanks to new investments by RWJF, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

About Reclaiming Futures
Reclaiming Futures is an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that offers a new approach to helping teenagers caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. Its founding 10 communities include: 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. By 2009, the Reclaiming Futures model will be in up to 25 communities thanks to new investments by RWJF, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention 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. 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 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. Visit