Webinar Opportunity: Family Centered Strategies in Juvenile Court

by Reclaiming Futures Staff

Webinar Opportunity: Family Centered Strategies in Juvenile Court
Featuring Members of the Reclaiming Futures National Program
Register: Mon. Nov. 20, 2017 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM PST

Register now for this November webinar featuring Jerry Stollings, a Reclaiming Futures Project Director from Williams County in Northwest Ohio; with an introduction by Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan Elkin. The webinar will explore an innovative new family centered alternative to the traditional juvenile treatment court approach that blends elements of the Family Treatment Court approach with positive youth development and community engagement strategies.

The Williams County Family Intervention Court is certified by the Supreme Court of Ohio and handles both delinquency and abuse/neglect/dependency cases by working with the entire family in an effort to address the underlying problems that contribute to the reason for court involvement. The program is implemented with little additional funding and relies a great deal on the creativity of the treatment team and community partnerships.

Presented by Reclaiming Futures Project Director, Jerry Stollings; with an introduction by Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director, Evan Elkin.

Register for the webinar>>

 

New Data on LGBQ/GNCT Youth in the Justice System

by Reclaiming Futures Staff

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In August, 2017, Dr. Angela Irvine released an important report examining new data on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning, Gender Nonconforming, and Transgender (LGBQ/GNCT) Youth in the Justice System. Here is a conversation between Reclaiming Futures Executive Director Evan Elkin and Dr. Irvine on the new report.

Evan Elkin:  What were the most surprising takeaways from the study?

Dr. Irvine: I have been studying the pathways into the justice system for almost ten years.  The first set of findings from 2010 did not diverge as widely across gender.

This time around, we see that, while 12-13% of boys in the justice system are gay, bisexual, questioning, gender nonconforming, or transgender (GBQ/GNCT), there are 40% of girls nationally and 51% of girls in California who identify as LBQ/GNCT. And, of these LGBQ/GNCT youth, 85% nationally and 90% in California are of color.[1]  This means that you can’t talk or think about the overrepresentation of LBQ/GNCT girls without addressing racial and ethnic disparities. Race, gender, and sexual orientation are inextricably linked for girls in the justice system.[2]

Evan Elkin: What is driving the overrepresentation of LGBQ/GNCT youth in the juvenile justice system?

Dr. Irvine: These results broadly reflect the reinforcing effects of racial discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia.

This manifests in the daily lives of LGBQ/GNCT youth as what might be called a cradle to justice pipeline. These youth experience rejection by their families, bullying and harassment at school, disproportionate removal from their homes because someone is hurting them, and a failure by the child welfare system to provide affirming placements. In response, many LGBQ/GNCT youth run away and engage in survival activities like sex work for food, clothing, and housing. In turn, LGBQ/GNCT youth are more likely to be arrested and charged for engaging in survival crimes than straight youth and, therefore, end up in the justice system at disproportionate rates.[3]

Evan Elkin:  What are the policy implications of what you and other researchers are finding?

Dr. Irvine:  Broadly, these findings reinforce our early suggestions that justice system change for LGBQ/GNCT youth requires a three-legged stool: the development of anti-discrimination policies, targeted training, and the collection of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) data. The more we do the work, the more we see how these three efforts reinforce one another and become a necessary foundation for all other work. Without the policy, staff don’t take training as seriously. Without data collection, staff don’t believe there are very many LGBQ/GNCT youth in their facilities. At the same time, the data provides a baseline that allows systems to start building LGBQ/GNCT youth intervention programs.

When we think of intervention programs, the justice system does not only need special support services for LGBQ/GNCT youth. Rather, we need to think about how to make all practices and programs in the system affirming of LGBQ/GNCT youth—who are mostly of color. For example, one of our most important findings is that GBQ/GNCT boys of color are at a higher risk of being criminalized for sex work than any other group in the justice system. They aren’t necessarily the largest group of youth engaged in sex work, they are simply at the highest risk of being arrested and charged for sex work. This finding illustrates that programs for youth engaged in sex work—programs that have long served “girls”—need to think more broadly about gender and gender expression to serve those at highest risk of justice involvement.

Evan Elkin: You’ve been out speaking about this data…how is the research received by juvenile justice stakeholders and policy makers?

Dr. Irvine: At this point, we have tremendous support from the field.  Our work has been building since 2008. In the beginning, there were only a few system stakeholders who were thinking about the overrepresentation of LGBQ/GNCT youth.

Running a parallel track, the release of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards in 2009 and the publication of the Department of Justice PREA rule in 2012 supported broader work about LGBQ/GNCT youth across the justice system.[4] Through listening sessions tied to the PREA Task Force and public drafts of the standards, the field began learning about how LGBQ/GNCT prisoners are at risk of sexual abuse while in custody. Once those standards were published and became the basis for training probation departments across the country, we found that the field of probation became aware and concerned about the overrepresentation of LGBQ/GNCT youth on a giant scale.

Our research, then, has improved the information available about LGBQ/GNCT youth in the justice system and directly improved practices across the country.  

Evan Elkin: How could the increasing climate of intolerance affect the efforts of reform-minded policy makers dealing with overrepresentation and collateral impact on LGBQ/GNCT youth?

Dr. Irvine: There is no doubt that closeted bigots have become emboldened to share their beliefs publicly under the Trump administration. At the same time, I am a believer in the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice—as Dr. Martin Luther King described. I have friends who are military sociologists who have worked for twenty years to get the armed services to internalize the belief that LGBQ/GNCT soldiers strengthen the defense of this country.  And they have succeeded. While Trump tries to reverse history, you can see how many leaders of the military are fighting for the rights of transgender soldiers however they can.

In the same way, we have been fighting to improve outcomes for LGBQ/GNCT youth in the justice system. We made long strides under PREA—which was a bipartisan bill signed by George W. Bush—and the Obama administration. There are blue and red counties across the country that understand the pernicious trends of racial and ethnic disparities and the overrepresentation of LGBQ/GNCT youth and who want to improve their systems. I don’t think the beliefs of the fringe right will take our work off track. There will be bumps in the road.  For example, I know that hundreds of regulations protecting LGBQ/GNCT communities are being erased from federal agencies. I also have faith that we will continue to make progress across the aisle at the local level.

[1] Click here for an infographic on LGBQ/GNCT girls in California.

[2] Click  here for an article on meeting the intersectional behavioral health needs of LGBQ/GNCT girls of color in the justice system.

[3] Click  here for an article about this pathway into the justice system for LGBQ/GNCT youth.

[4] Click here for more information about the ongoing work of the PREA Resource Center, which is housed at Impact Justice.

 

2017 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning, Gender Nonconforming and Transgender (LGBQ/GNCT) Youth Involved with Juvenile Justice

by Bridget Murphy

Since joining Reclaiming Futures, I have listened to the open meetings of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice (FACJJ). Supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), FACJJ (pronounced FAC Jay) members are individuals appointed to State Advisory Groups. Created in 2002, FACJJ members are responsible for having knowledge of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and to encourage state compliance with the four core protections:

  • Reduction in disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in juvenile justice
  • Deinstitutionalization of youth who commit status offenses
  • Separation of youth from adults in secure settings
  • Removing youth from adult jails and locked facilities

The purpose of the FACJJ is to provide recommendations to the President, Congress, and OJJDP Administrator on juvenile justice issues.  Guided by a charter and by-laws, the open meetings provide relevant information about FACJJ focus areas, progress made in these focus areas, and typically, some type of topic specific presentation. For example, the July 2017 meeting included an update and remarks from the OJJDP Administrator, subcommittee updates, and a presentation on gender responsive services for girls.  These meetings are informative to hear about the national and state juvenile justice efforts to help shape and support our work at Reclaiming Futures.

FACJJ core values

Many of the FACJJ core values align with the four JJDPA core protections and Reclaiming Futures approach and model.  For example, FACJJ values a full continuum of services and supports based on the least restrictive environment appropriate for the young person. The FACJJ values services and supports that are culturally competent, based on objective assessment of both risk and protective factors, and accessible to all youth and their family (e.g., socioeconomic; race/ethnicity; linguistically; gender and developmental stage). A pervasive theme throughout the value statements is collaboration. Articulation of collaboration with legal counsel, communities, families, and professionals within the juvenile justice system is in a number of the value statements.

Annual reports

Each year, FACJJ members develop reports with recommendations. Recent past reports have made recommendations about:

  • Expunging, sealing, and confidentiality of records (2015)
  • Research and publications (2015)
  • Supporting the reauthorization of JJDPA with sufficient funding (2015)
  • Exemption for youth from sex offender registry’s (2016)
  • Identifying and supporting evidence based and family focused treatment to address youthful sexual misconduct (2016)

The 2017 annual report offered recommendations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, gender nonconforming and transgender (LGBQ/GNCT) youth given their over-representation in the juvenile justice system and to address the “unique harms they experience” (p. 2). Developed by FACJJ members and experts in field, this comprehensive, well articulated, and actionable set of recommendations are categorized into the areas of policy and program development, training and technical assistance, data collection and research, and federal LGBT juvenile justice coordination.

What are some ways Reclaiming Futures sites can integrate these recommendations?

The report offers plenty of ideas for responding to the needs of LGBQ/GNCT youth involved with juvenile justice. Mapping some of the recommendations onto the Reclaiming Futures 6-step model here are some ways sites can consider responding:

  • Step 1.0 – Screening:
    • Activate your fellowship team to think through and plan ways to incorporate questions that ask young people about their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGIE) so we may better understand the substance use and mental health issues and needs of LGBQ/GNCT youth. Key considerations include training staff to respectfully ask the questions, informing youth how this information will and will not be shared, and what are the potential benefits and risks to sharing this information (related to program and policy and data collection and research recommendations)
  • Step 1.5 – Brief Intervention:
    • Create space for young people to feel comfortable by asking them their preferred name and gender pronouns. To accomplish this, consider how you introduce and review the participant feedback report (related to program and policy recommendations).
  • Step 2.0 – Assessment:
    • Highlight how assessments are collected and results used to make informed decisions about substance use and mental health needs of LGBQ/GNCT youth (related to program and policy recommendations)
  • Step 3.0 – Service Coordination:
    • Collaborate with community-based agencies to improve access to and engagement in services and supports that have policies and procedures that keep LGBQ/GNCT youth and their family safe and able to participate fully (related to program and policy recommendations).
  • Steps 4.0, 5.0, 6.0 – Initiation, Engagement, and Transition:
    • Analyze data to determine if there are differences for LGBQ/GNCT youth initiating, engaging, and transitioning from behavioral health services. It may be determined that some organizations have cultural norms and values and policies and procedures that emphasize creating positive environments for LGBQ/GNCT youth through the use of evidence based approaches (related to program and policy and data collection and research recommendations).

Importance to youth and families

The National Program Office (NPO) acknowledges Reclaiming Futures sites continually strive to improve services and supports for diverse young people and their families including those from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender identities and expressions, and rural and urban areas. We support the use of best practices in screening, assessment, and coordination of services that are evidence based for youth and families while keeping the youth and their family at the center of our interactions and decision-making.  Tell us some ways you have incorporated some of these recommendations into local juvenile justice jurisdictions, services and supports, and community collaborations.

Bridget Murphy

About

Ms. Bridget Murphy understands behavioral health issues from personal, familial, and professional education and experiences. She joined the Reclaiming Futures National Program Office (NPO) as the Program and Policy Analyst and supports Reclaiming Futures sites by translating research into practice through training and technical assistance. She has more than two decades experience in the behavioral health field. Ms. Murphy has worked as a provider, project director/principal investigator, evaluator, consultant, and federal contractor. She has a particular interest in improving access to and quality of behavioral health services and its workforce through evidence-based practices, participant protections, peer and family recovery supports, integrated care, and participatory evaluation methods. Ms. Murphy has a master’s degree in education.

 

News from the National Executive Director, May 2017

by Evan Elkin

Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan ElkinSince the release of the OJJDP-funded national evaluation of Reclaiming Futures, we have made a significant effort to study the findings in order to understand which elements of our approach may be producing better outcomes for young people and which elements need improvement. One thing that stands out when you look at the Reclaiming Futures evaluation report  is that both the Reclaiming Futures cohort of sites and the comparison cohort – which was a very well-funded group of Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts – were very similar in that both consistently used evidence-based treatment practices.   

When Reclaiming Futures launched more than 15 years ago, it was considered innovative and forward-thinking that one of our key principles of practice was to support and cajole the local jurisdictions to adopt and sustain evidence-based treatment approaches. Now juvenile justice and other youth-serving systems widely accept the importance of evidence-based treatment approaches as a standard of practice in the field. In spite of the consensus around using evidence-based practices, the expansion of  treatment-focused diversion programs, and alternatives to incarceration, significant racial and ethnic disparities in youth outcomes continue to plague our system.

In this month’s Reclaiming Futures newsletter we reflect on the critical question of whether the evidence-based practices that we have adopted as a point of faith, in fact have the same level of effectiveness for all the youth we serve in the juvenile justice system, particularly youth of color. An important finding in the Reclaiming Futures national evaluation suggests that youth outcomes are significantly improved in settings where evidence-based practices are delivered in a manner sensitive to culture and gender. It is critically important then that we address the question of whether evidence-based treatment practices, including the research validated screening and assessment tools we have come to rely on in juvenile justice settings, are adequately responsive to the needs of youth of color.

For insights into this important discussion we draw your attention to a recent blog post by Reclaiming Futures’ own Bridget Murphy and to an important new report by the W. Haywood Burns Institute looking at the effectiveness of evidence-based practices with youth of color.

Evan Elkin

About

Evan Elkin is the executive director of Reclaiming Futures.

 

News from the National Executive Director, April 2017

by Evan Elkin

Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan ElkinNearly two decades ago, our nation’s juvenile justice system began to slowly shift the way we think about young people. The prevailing punitive and heavily racialized narrative about justice-involved youth that produced the infamous term “super-predator” has gradually given way to a new, more humanistic narrative. While we still have a long way to go, the field now looks at delinquent behavior through a more developmentally informed lens, is more willing to look at the root causes of racial disparities in the system, and understands that many youth arrive at the doorstep of the justice system with a history of significant trauma. Many jurisdictions now actively look for opportunities to divert low-risk youth from court and employ an array of treatment-oriented alternatives to incarceration for youth who need a therapeutic intervention.

Reclaiming Futures is proud to have played a lead role over the past 17 years in sensitizing juvenile justice jurisdictions to the importance of evidence-based and developmentally appropriate responses to substance use and behavioral health concerns, which do not widen the net and pull youth further into the justice system. Along the way, we’ve helped jurisdictions around the country to better engage families and mobilize community supports for youth. In recent years, we amplified our focus on addressing racial and ethnic disparities, in terms of both health and justice outcomes in the jurisdictions where we work. We are also piloting a cutting edge new framework to help juvenile treatment courts address disparities.

Another strategy for weaving treatment together with traditional juvenile court practices has been the juvenile drug treatment court (JDTC). JDTCs began as a pilot program, inspired by the success of adult drug courts, and then quickly grew into a significant presence in the field with nearly 500 JDTCs in juvenile justice jurisdictions across the country. JDTCs have grown exponentially in spite of very mixed research outcomes, a phenomenon which puzzles researchers and policy makers. Recently the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has sought to tackle this challenge and launched a new initiative geared to surfacing the most promising and evidence–supported practice elements from JDTCs across the country. As part of this initiative, OJJDP produced a new set of practice guidelines for JDTCs. The hope is that these new guidelines will lead to greater uniformity across jurisdictions and to closer adherence to practices that research has shown to produce better outcomes for youth. See this current blog post by our own Bridget Murphy for a discussion of the OJJDP Guidelines project and a recent RFP seeking pilot sites for a national evaluation.

At Reclaiming Futures we bring a public health-oriented framework and a set of cutting edge and evidence-based practices to our work with many JDTCs around the country. As a result, we have generated significantly strong outcomes in JDTCs where we’ve worked. The focus of our work and the principles behind the Reclaiming Futures approach closely match the new JDTC guidelines issued by OJJDP, and so we are greatly encouraged about the promise they hold, but we know first-hand what it takes to put principles and guidelines into effective action.

Evan Elkin

About

Evan Elkin is the executive director of Reclaiming Futures.

 

News from the National Executive Director, March 2017

by Evan Elkin

Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan ElkinIn this month’s Reclaiming Futures newsletter, we turn our attention to one of the most important threads in the juvenile justice reform narrative of the past 15 years: the debate regarding the age of adult responsibility in the criminal justice system. In the past decade, we have gained an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the neuroscience of adolescent behavior; this has transformed the way juvenile justice stakeholders view a delinquent youth’s culpability and has guided the field to question the efficacy of traditional juvenile justice responses to delinquency. Furthermore, a recent report by the Justice Policy Institute points out that cost-benefit studies have consistently contradicted the common anxiety that raising the age will flood the juvenile system with cases and generate unmanageable costs. Finally, there has been an increasing openness over the years to view court-involved youth in a less punitive, more humanistic and developmentally appropriate light that also accounts for the ways that adverse childhood experiences, and mental health and substance use problems, can drive the behaviors that get youth in trouble with the law. However, none of these shifts have moved the needle on the persistent racial and ethnic disparities that plague both the juvenile and adult justice systems. The executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, Marc Schindler, interviewed for a recent NPR piece on the role of race in the raise-the-age policy discussion and reminds us that the policies driving more youth into the adult criminal justice system have a disproportionate impact on youth of color.

Advocates and state policymakers have increasingly been able to leverage these insights to advance the raise-the-age conversation and, as a result, the number of states that automatically prosecute 16 and 17 year old youth in adult court has dropped 50% in ten years from 14 states to just 7 states. Other states, like Connecticut, have taken these insights and the adolescent brain development research to another level and have begun exploring the merits of raising the age to 21. Connecticut has truly been on the cutting edge in these discussions and recently launched an innovative pilot program that radically re-imagines incarceration for young adults up to the age of 25. At the other end of the continuum – and in spite of where the rest of the country seems to be moving – New York and North Carolina remain the only two states in the country to prosecute 16-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system. The fact that NYC continues to lock up 16-year-old adolescents in a violent and traumatizing setting like Rikers Island, and is still unable to mobilize the political will to raise the age, shows how far we still have to go to recognize the collateral consequences that these policies can have.

Evan Elkin

About

Evan Elkin is the executive director of Reclaiming Futures.

 

What’s in a Number? Age Considerations in Justice Decisions

by Bridget Murphy

Research shows that adolescents have a high propensity for engaging in risk taking activities given the significant changes in neurology, biology, and other developmental issues (e.g., social; cultural; familial) they experience. Specifically related to decision-making, science shows the pre-frontal cortex region of the brain is underdeveloped until a young person is well into their 20’s.  With these findings in mind, how should this influence the way we think about key juvenile justice policies and practices like the age of juvenile jurisdiction?

While developmental science has guided juvenile justice policies, it cannot be the only factor in determining the age at which young people are transferred to adult courts. Yet, the Supreme Court has used developmental science to guide its opinions in cases (e.g., Miller v. Alabama). Moreover, the committee that prepared the Reforming Juvenile Justice A Developmental Approach report argues for two guiding principles related to age of transfer policies including: proportionality and individualization (p. 134). They also argue for the importance of keeping the jurisdictions goals of crime prevention in the forefront. More spePAGE2-COURTROOMcifically:

  • Proportionality is the notion that a lower threshold for punishment for adolescents should be considered as compared to adults and young people should be offered alternatives to confinement
  • Individualization suggests that decisions about transferring youth to adult courts should be made based on multiple factors and not just arbitrary age limits. This may include type and severity of the law violation and other contextual factors
  • Crime prevention strategies should examine the policies and programs that support their goals. Studies have shown that confining young people does not prevent future re-offending, and in fact, can be counterproductive to crime prevention efforts. This is particularly true regarding confining young people in adult facilities given the opposing aspects for healthy adolescent development (e.g., isolation; possible victimization; potentially greater access to negative role models/adults; delays in academic progress)

Most states have the age for juvenile jurisdiction through 17 years old. However, five states have it set at 16 years old, and two at 15 years old. All states have transfer laws that require or provide discretion for making a determination to transfer a young person to adult courts. These can be complicated systems for decision-making, but proportionality, individualization, and the goals of crime prevention are likely to produce the best outcomes for youth, families, and communities.

Today some states, like Connecticut, are debating increasing the age of transfer to adult court to 21 years old. From an adolescent development perspective, this is a promising approach. The MacArthur Foundation recently released a brief that indicates that while research is limited, there appears to be differences in brain development for youth in the age group of 18 to 21 as compared to their younger or older counterparts. While the report acknowledges further research is needed, the brief recommends that justice policies and programs consider the unique developmental aspects of young people between the ages of 18-21 years old.

The Justice Policy Institute also recently released a report that examined state specific results of raising the age, which shows improved outcomes for youth, families, and state budgets.  For example, several states prepared fiscal notes that projected costs would increase if age of transfer was raised. However, states like Illinois, Connecticut and New Hampshire showed negligible fiscal increases and cost savings.  While North Carolina and New York are the only two states that have the age of transfer at 15 years old, lawmakers continue to debate the issues including the economic benefits. In fact, supporters of North Carolina’s House Bill 280 are communicating cost-benefit results that show state savings of $7 (actual dollars) to $50 (actual dollars and benefits to youth) million dollars per year.

Science and experience tell us that providing youth with positive, pro-social environments that encourage development of critical thinking through participation in healthy adult and peer relationships, fair and consistent boundaries, education, and gender and culturally responsive activities offers greater value to youth, families, and crime prevention efforts.

Reclaiming Futures sites work every day to ensure that young people are screened, assessed and services and supports are offered based on the youth and families individual needs. If youth become involved in the justice system, it makes sense that our responses, including what jurisdiction for which they are involved, are developmentally appropriate and grounded in evidence-based practices.

 

Bridget Murphy

About

Ms. Bridget Murphy understands behavioral health issues from personal, familial, and professional education and experiences. She joined the Reclaiming Futures National Program Office (NPO) as the Program and Policy Analyst and supports Reclaiming Futures sites by translating research into practice through training and technical assistance. She has more than two decades experience in the behavioral health field. Ms. Murphy has worked as a provider, project director/principal investigator, evaluator, consultant, and federal contractor. She has a particular interest in improving access to and quality of behavioral health services and its workforce through evidence-based practices, participant protections, peer and family recovery supports, integrated care, and participatory evaluation methods. Ms. Murphy has a master’s degree in education.

 

News from the National Executive Director, December 2016

by Evan Elkin

Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan ElkinOn December 13th, President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act. This sweeping legislative initiative is likely to be the final piece of legislation Barack Obama signs, and it is anything but an afterthought. The act is not without its critics, but some of the provisions of the 21st Century Cures ACT, for example those that pave the way for cross agency coordination, promise to reverberate in positive ways in the treatment field by accelerating the impact of research and innovation and catalyzing more collaborative work across government agencies and professional fields. For organizations like Reclaiming Futures whose mission includes efforts to bring systems together in the delivery of services to youth and families, this new set of laws is good news.

In this month’s Reclaiming Futures Newsletter, we draw your attention to this important piece of legislation and to a new blog post by Reclaiming Futures’ Bridget Murphy that highlights some of the key moving parts and implications that this important piece of legislation has for us in the field of substance use and behavioral health treatment.

Evan Elkin

About

Evan Elkin is the executive director of Reclaiming Futures.

 

H.R.6 – 21st Century Cures Act

by Bridget Murphy

Acknowledged as the final signed legislation for President Obama’s Administration, the 21st CeBridgetntury Cures Act is important for behavioral health and juvenile justice. The key components of this Act include provisions for:

In addition to the jurisdiction and community level supports, the Act provides structural changes to the way the government oversees and funds behavioral health. The 21st Century Cures Act includes developing a committee for federal agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Justice to work together on behavioral health issues; it designates a new position – Assistance Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, and designates an advisory board for analyzing treatments and services.

I am optimistic this Act will help coordinate funding and improve behavioral health policy, improve practice to identify individuals in need of services, increase equitable access to evidence-based services and supports, reduce stigma associated with accessing services by celebrating those in recovery, and expand the availability of community-based treatment throughout the United States.

2017 is guaranteed to bring many changes. I hope this Act will offer the field the leadership, coordination, funding, and research that will help us continue to improve the work we do in partnership with youth, families, and communities.

Bridget Murphy

About

Ms. Bridget Murphy understands behavioral health issues from personal, familial, and professional education and experiences. She joined the Reclaiming Futures National Program Office (NPO) as the Program and Policy Analyst and supports Reclaiming Futures sites by translating research into practice through training and technical assistance. She has more than two decades experience in the behavioral health field. Ms. Murphy has worked as a provider, project director/principal investigator, evaluator, consultant, and federal contractor. She has a particular interest in improving access to and quality of behavioral health services and its workforce through evidence-based practices, participant protections, peer and family recovery supports, integrated care, and participatory evaluation methods. Ms. Murphy has a master’s degree in education.

 

News from the National Executive Director, November 2016

by Evan Elkin

Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan ElkinIn this month’s Reclaiming Futures newsletter, we draw your attention to a new report issued by US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on November 17, 2016.  The report is significant because it marks the first time a United States Surgeon General has taken such a clear and strong position that substance use and addiction should be viewed first and foremost as a public health issue.  This is a position many advocates and organizations, like Reclaiming Futures, have taken for many years because we know firsthand the collateral consequences of continuing to view substance use and addiction as a moral failing and as a matter for the criminal justice system, and not the public health system and/or through a racially biased lens.

We know from our own work and national evaluation results that partnering with juvenile justice systems across the country to adopt a public health lens and replacing punitive responses with science-based, humanistic, and community-driven treatment alternatives, attending to issues of equity in access to care and justice, not only leads to better health outcomes for youth, but reduces recidivism and saves significant taxpayer dollars that could be reinvested in community-based treatment alternatives.

The Surgeon General’s report is encouraging and the potential policy and national public health implications of the Surgeon General’s position are enormous, but only if there continues to be high level government support and investment in continued reforms to the way we view and respond to substance use and mental health treatment needs in this country.

Evan Elkin

About

Evan Elkin is the executive director of Reclaiming Futures.