News Release – August 7, 2007

Treatment Providers Recommend Practical Steps to Break Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime for Teens

Portland, OR (August 7, 2007) — A national group of substance abuse treatment experts today recommended 10 specific steps communities can take to improve care for teens with drugs and alcohol problems who are in trouble with the law. The providers, part of the Reclaiming Futures initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, describe their ideas for changing local juvenile justice systems in a new report, Improved Care for Teens in Trouble with Drugs, Alcohol and Crime.

“Most teens that appear before a juvenile court judge are struggling with alcohol and drugs, yet few of them get treatment in spite of research linking substance abuse and delinquent behavior,” said Laura Nissen, Ph.D., Reclaiming Futures national program director. “Reclaiming Futures has created and tested a model that identifies these young people early on, provides a team approach to treatment designed for their age group, and gives services beyond treatment.”

The report recommendations are based on the Reclaiming Futures model tested in 10 communities during the past five years. The ground-breaking approach screens each teen 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.

A recent independent evaluation by the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children found that participating communities report that Reclaiming Futures has improved the coordination and quality of substance abuse interventions for teens involved with the juvenile justice system.

“This report is a step-by-step guide for other treatment professionals seeking to help this unique population of young people,” said Jan Embree-Bever, Reclaiming Futures leadership faculty. “It draws on the lessons we have learned during the past five years and has practical steps that any treatment provider in any community can take to help these teens in need.”

The report suggests 10 recommendations such as creating a service team made up of treatment providers, judges, probation officers, family and community members to design a care plan for the youth; having the team agree on definitions for critical terms used in the field to improve communication; providing cross-training for all team members; and developing systematic data collection and tracking mechanisms to track outcomes for the teen and program.

Improved Care for Teens in Trouble with Drugs, Alcohol and Crime can be read in its entirety at It can be used along with the workbook, Improving Adolescent Treatment: A Self-Study Workbook for Adolescent Substance
Abuse Treatment Providers
(2006), and a report on terminology, Key Terminology:
For Communities Developing Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs in Partnership with the Juvenile Justice System
(2007), which are both available at the same Web site.

About Reclaiming Futures
Reclaiming Futures is an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that offers a new approach to helping teenagers caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. Its 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. 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