Girls and Opioids: Vulnerabilities & Opportunities

by Reclaiming Futures Staff

In two separate blog posts in 2016, we discussed opioid use rates and substance use issues among adolescent girls involved with juvenile justice. In July 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health (OWH) released a report on opioid use, misuse, and overdose in women. The report provides information on the gender-specific issues and gaps in knowledge regarding females with substance use concerns/disorders.

The report discusses the differences among females and males regarding the progression of substance use, the biological, social, and cultural issues (e.g., pain; relationships; family/parenting; trauma, determinants of health), effective treatments and barriers to implementation, and areas for further research. As it relates to adolescent girls (ages 12-17 years old), the report indicates they are more likely to use and become dependent on non-medical uses of prescription drugs as compared to adolescent boys. Access to prescription drugs can come from a home medicine cabinet and may help relieve mental health or physical pain symptoms and/or be part of their peer culture.

Other National Efforts

Testimony from leaders during the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis meeting in June communicated important recommendations relevant to the opioid problems given that death rates have quadrupled since 1999 and other serious consequences (e.g., family; long term health issues; loss of productivity). The Commission emphasized:

  • Delaying the onset of any type of substance use is critical to preventing the long-term consequence of addiction. Studies find the younger a person is when they first initiate substance use; the more likely they are to develop a substance use disorder over time. To achieve this, collaborate with communities, schools, and justice to implement evidence-based prevention including screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment, develop or improve policies and practices for a continuum of services and supports, and eliminate stigma associated with substance use and help seeking.
  • Improving the implementation of evidence based prevention and treatment through workforce development, financing, and accountability. Repeatedly, the Commission said the science is solid, yet implementation is low. In other words, there studies and experts that have demonstrated and communicated, “What works,” but providers and communities don’t actually implement these strategies, services and supports, or treatments. Translating science into practice requires leadership, resources, training and technical support.
  • Using strategies such as systematic screening, assessment, and access to evidence based care to reduce the number of people with substance use concerns in the justice system.

The Commission is recommending rapid responses with scalable solutions to address this epidemic in communities across the country. What was missing from the discussion was the importance of being mindful of culture in any type of response. We know strategies to engage and respond to girls are different from boys as well as those for diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender identity and sexual orientation, and where one lives (e.g., urban; rural). Considering cultural context is imperative to the successful implementation and adoption of any types of services and supports.

Medication Assisted, Counseling, and Behavioral Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines medications to help people reduce the physiological cravings of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs and behavioral therapies address the thoughts, behaviors, and other factors associated with substance use disorders (e.g., mental health symptoms and trauma; disparities).

Medications found effective for treating opioid addiction are methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. Methadone is approved for use for people 18 years or older. Few studies have examined the effectiveness of naltrexone for adolescents, but experts suggest it is promising. Buprenorphine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use with young people 16 years and older and has research to support its efficacy when combined with behavioral treatments for adolescents.

We must not forget the seminal report by the former United States Surgeon General on alcohol, drug use, and health. It provides background and recommendations for prevention, treatment, recovery support, and health care.  A primary theme of this report highlights treating substance use concerns/disorders as a chronic health condition rather than moral failing. Research shows medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies effectively treat substance use disorders whereas punitive approaches such as incarceration do not. 

Applications for Reclaiming Futures

The Reclaiming Futures approach has been shown effective for getting young people the services and supports they need. As such, Reclaiming Futures sites are leaders in the identifying and connecting young people to resources in their communities. So, continue what you are doing and constantly find ways to improve quality and use the latest research to guide decision-making.

Here are some other ways sites can respond specifically for girls of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds:

  • Identify gender-specific and culturally responsive approaches used to screen, assess, and coordinate services in your communities. If there are gaps, consider ways to improve the community directed response for adolescent girls. Key considerations include mental health services including trauma, family supports, sexual health, positive human development opportunities and activities (e.g., family engagement; education; civic involvement and leadership; recreation; recovery support).
  • Check out your local resources for MAT. What are the requirements? How do families pay for services? Are there age limitations? Where are they located and how accessible are they? Are services gender-specific and culturally responsive for the community for which they serve?
  • Meet with local leaders to determine what, if any, policies or procedures are being implemented to address the opioid crisis and what is missing? What is explicitly inclusive for adolescent girls?

All across the country, families and communities are losing loved ones and becoming activists to prevent other families from experiencing this pain and suffering. Prevention is collaborating to activate coordinated community responses. Law enforcement, medical first responders, and juvenile justice are working to implement interventions. Behavioral health is working in creative ways to offer MAT, counseling, and other treatment. Responding to substance use and misuse for young people requires increased collaboration, coordination, and messaging about its tragedies, victories, and everything in between.


Authors Note: Discussion of gender in this blog post assumes biological sex at birth since the documents reviewed did not specify. For consistency, this was maintained throughout the blog post. Reclaiming Futures is cognizant of and respectful that gender is not a dichotomous construct, but a continuum of identities.


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


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.


Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines

by Bridget Murphy

As many of you know, in 2016 the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines (JDTC). The purpose for developing the Guidelines was to organize the most effective JDTC implementation components based on the best available research. Building on the 2003 Juvenile Drug Courts: Strategies in Practice (JDC: SIP), this systematic and thorough review developed seven objectives, each with corresponding guidelines statements, and supporting information.

Before going forward, it’s appropriate to look back. Reclaiming Futures and JDC: SIP have co-existed in many juvenile justice jurisdictions. OJJDP funded a number of grants to implement both Reclaiming Futures and JDC: SIP. Subsequently, they funded a cross-site evaluation that examined the implementation process, youth changes over time, and costs of Reclaiming Futures and the combined Reclaiming Futures and JDC: SIP approach. Findings from this study were used to support the empirical basis for some of the JDTC objectives.

Of relevance, Greene and colleagues (2016) developed a logic model blending Reclaiming Futures and JDC: SIP. The authors indicated the two approaches are complimentary and aim to achieve the same goals: reduce/eliminate substance use and future crime.  They indicated Reclaiming Futures and JDCs both emphasize (1) developing team collaboration (2) expanding the network of services through community partnerships, (3) focusing on youth strengths, (4) involving and engaging the family, and (5) monitoring and evaluation. Greene and colleagues also noted some differences. As compared to JDCs, Reclaiming Futures is a broader approach, recommends a greater number of individuals involved in collaboration process, works towards system change rather than implementing programmatic activities, and places a greater emphasis on community directed engagement following  services and supports.

The authors’ delineated 16 key activity areas that Reclaiming Futures and JDC: SIP overlap including:

  • Community engagement and collaborative partnerships
  • Judicial leadership aligned with JDC and RF concepts
  • Collaborative leadership and structured team work
  • Defined eligibility criteria
  • Balance confidentiality procedures and collaboration
  • Comprehensive screening and ongoing assessment
  • Strength-based and care coordination
  • Individualized evidence-based treatment services
  • Services appropriate to youths’ gender, culture, and development
  • Engage family in all program components
  • Regular, random drug testing
  • Strength based incentives and sanctions
  • Program monitoring and evaluation
  • Educational linkages
  • Successful initiation, engagement, and completion of treatment
  • Implementation community transition plan

Many of the commonalities and differences between Reclaiming Futures and the JDTC Guidelines remain the same.  Both have expanded and enhanced their approaches and models using research. Both have focused on the importance of culture and language – Reclaiming Futures through its decision-making approach to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in behavioral health decisions and JDTCs through explicit guidelines that address culture and language. JDTCs increased its emphasis on case management and continuing care and Reclaiming Futures has added a brief intervention for youth who do not need higher level of care. JDTCs continue to focus on the individual treatment needs such as trauma and co-occurring issues and Reclaiming Futures focuses on system issues to improve the identification, screening, assessment and coordination of these individualized services.

Both the development of the JDTC Guidelines and Reclaiming Futures cross-site evaluation has highlighted the need for rigorous research and evaluation to help the field better understand the effectiveness of interventions designed for youth and families involved in juvenile justice. We are entering this next phase of implementation and research of JDTCs with the release of OJJDPs notice that it is seeking applications for funding specifically for JDTCs.

This is an important time for us to use the knowledge gained, continually improve systems, services, and supports, and let research guide development. Implementation and research of the seven JDTC objectives will advance our understanding of JDTCs effectiveness for youth and families with substance use disorders. Based on the Reclaiming Futures cross-site evaluation study, juvenile justice jurisdictions may achieve extra value in terms of youth and family outcomes and cost savings by blending Reclaiming Futures and JDTC Guidelines. Determining the best approaches to meet the needs of youth and families within different contexts requires deliberate and thoughtful considerations of a multitude of issues for which Reclaiming Futures sites are very experienced.



Bridget Murphy


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.


Compassionate Canine Joins Snohomish County’s Juvenile Drug Treatment Court

by Janelle Sgrignoli
Lucy and Judge Dingledy

Lucy and Judge Dingledy

Meet Lucy.

Lucy is one of two highly trained therapy dogs in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Lucy has several important roles.

She provides support and comfort to victims of trauma and abuse. Lucy helps break the ice when children are asked to talk about sexual and/or physical abuse. She is in the courtroom, hidden from jurors, sitting with children as they testify in court. Some families also request that Lucy sit with them as they watch the trials of people accused of killing their loved ones.

Lucy and  Juvenile Drug Court staff

Lucy and Juvenile Drug Court staff

Lucy is also the newest member of Snohomish County’s juvenile drug treatment court. She and her handler, Kathy Murray, attend staffing and are also present in the courtroom. Lucy lies near the bench on her blanket.  She provides support for the youth while in the courtroom.

She also helps the team. It’s tough on the team members when a youth has not succeeded in breaking free from their addiction.  Having Lucy there helps ease frustration and sadness and keeps the team focused on helping every youth in drug court have the best chance of success.

Kathy, Lucy’s handler, is also developing a program that will allow drug court youth who like animals to earn community service credit by working with Lucy one on one. As part of the program Kathy will provide a short training session to teach youth about giving commands and proper grooming. Not only will this teach the youth proper handling techniques, having Lucy follow their commands  will also provide them with a sense of accomplishment.

We’re very fortunate in Snohomish County to have a Prosecuting Attorney that cares so passionately about victims of trauma, their families and our drug courts.

We are also grateful to Canine Companions for Independence, a private non-profit organization that breeds and trains dogs, primarily for people with disabilities, for providing Lucy.


Janelle Sgrignoli

About Janelle Sgrignoli

Janelle has over 29 years’ experience in county government including as Department Director of Snohomish County’s Human Services Department. She joined Snohomish County Superior Court in October 2009 as Program Administrator Specialty Courts. She oversees 2 juvenile drug courts as well as a family drug treatment court and adult felony drug treatment court. She’s a lifetime resident of Snohomish County and through her work is always striving to improve services for those in need in Snohomish County.


An Exciting Opportunity to Upgrade Your Juvenile Drug Court

by Donna Wiench

Here’s an exciting opportunity to upgrade your juvenile drug court.


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recently released a solicitation for “OJJDP FY2014 Enhancements to Juvenile Drug Court”  which will provide up to eight juvenile drug courts with as much as $500,000 over three years.  The deadline for applications is July 23rd.  

The RFP states, “OJJDP will make awards to currently operating juvenile drug courts to enhance their capacity and the services they provide. A juvenile drug court provides comprehensive, developmentally appropriate, community-based services for youth who come in contact with the juvenile justice system due to alcohol or other drug use.”    The solicitation says OJJDP welcomes applications that involve two or more entities.

This grant is a great opportunity for communities interested in integrating Reclaiming Futures into their existing juvenile drug court.  As a partner to drug court applicants to this RFP, Reclaiming Futures could serve as a provider of technical assistance.  Reclaiming Futures has experience with data collection, the use of scientifically based screening and assessment procedures to identify youth in need of substance abuse and mental health services, staff training, family and community engagement, outcome monitoring and evaluation.

If your community is interested in applying for this grant and would like to learn how Reclaiming Futures fits into your proposal, contact Donna Wiench, Reclaiming Futures Strategic Partnership Director to learn more.

Donna Wiench

About Donna Wiench

Donna Wiench became the strategic partnership development director for Reclaiming Futures after spending seven years with a nonprofit juvenile substance abuse treatment provider. Donna is deeply committed to helping adolescents grow and thrive free of the shackles of drug addiction and mental illness.


Forsyth County’s Juvenile Drug-Treatment Court Celebrates First Graduates

by Cecilia Bianco

Forsyth County’s juvenile drug-treatment court celebrated its first three graduates in April. The Forsyth County juvenile drug-treatment court started in January 2013 and is geared toward nonviolent youths ages 12 to 16 who have substance abuse problems and have been sentenced to probation in juvenile court.

The goal of the program is to give participants a chance at a better life, ultimately reducing recidivism. Juanita Campbell, grandmother of one of the graduates, celebrated the program for this mission:

“I thank God for this program because I don’t want to give him to the streets,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to bury him. I don’t want him to spend 30 years in prison.”

Participants are required to remain in school, perform 25 hours of community service, and are subject to random drug testing. It typically takes nine to 15 months to graduate from the program, with assessments every 90 days to monitor the teens’ progress.

Forsyth County Court works with the local Reclaiming Futures to carry out assessments. Jemi Sneed, project director of Reclaiming Futures, said all participants are assessed to determine what type of substance abuse and other treatment they need, and then directed to the most appropriate treatment.

Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, spoke at the graduation in Forsyth County Court, urging the graduates to dream big dreams and reach out to the adults who have helped them in juvenile drug treatment court when they need them.

“Our youth is our future,” she said. “Dr. (Martin Luther) King once said that our lives began to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. I’m glad you weren’t silent and I’m glad that we’re not dying.”

Mark Kinney, the coordinator for the juvenile drug-treatment court, said 22 teens are currently in the program, and a total of 36 teens have participated.

Note: The court was made possible through a $1.23 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The federal money comes to Forsyth County through the N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency.

Image from Creative Commons User Andree Lüdtke

Cecilia Bianco is an account executive for Prichard Communications. She contributes to the Reclaiming Futures blog regarding topics of juvenile justice reform and substance abuse prevention.






Drug Court Pioneer, Judge John Schwartz, Celebrates Last Graduation Ceremony

by Cecilia Bianco

Judge John Schwartz founded the first Drug Court of New York in Rochester in 1995—at a time when the idea was highly controversial. On Friday, Oct. 25, Judge Schwartz presided over his last graduation as he prepares for well-deserved retirement.

Judge John Schwartz started his career in 1983 as a Rochester City Court Judge and has accomplished a tremendous amount for the New York Drug Courts. The Honorable Judge Schwartz has received several prestigious awards for his contributions to the Courts and his positive impact on the community throughout his career.

His last graduation class was monumentally successful; 85 newly clean and sober participants graduated—the largest group in the court’s 16-year history!

“It’s our largest graduating class ever and it’s been a great day,” said Judge Schwartz. “We’ve had a lot of success stories at this court and I’m very proud of them.”

It was the 46th graduation ceremony at the Hall of Justice in the Rochester City Court, and more than 200 people from across New York attended.

One particular special guest, Beth Coombs—a graduate in Judge Schwartz’s first class—traveled from California to speak on behalf of his groundbreaking work in the Drug Court field. “He put his reputation on the line so we could have a new way of life,” said Coombs, who currently works for a nonprofit association.

Another speaker on behalf of Judge Schwartz was West Huddleston, CEO of National Association of Drug Court Professionals, who praised Schwartz’s achievements within the state of New York and the Drug Court.

“[He] is an icon in the Drug Court profession who helped pave the way for others. As a visionary, he understood the value, the need and the potential of Drug Courts, and he put in the hard work needed to make the dream of Drug Courts a reality,” said Huddleston. “The domino effect Judge Schwartz has had on the Rochester community, the state of New York and the Drug Court profession is immeasurable.”

Some additional highlights of the Honorable Judge Schwartz’s career:

  • 1983 Elected as Rochester City Court Judge and Acting Monroe County Court Judge
  • 1992 Chief Judge of the Rochester City Court
  • 1992 Supervising Judge of All City Courts in the Seventh Judicial District
  • 1994 President of the New York State Association of City Court Judges
  • 1998 President Emeritus and Founding Member of the New York State Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals
  • 1999 Rochester Drug Treatment Court received prestigious “Nathaniel Award”
  • 2002 Selected to begin one of six pilot integrated domestic violence courts—presided over Monroe County Integrated Domestic Violence Courts until 2004
  • 2009 Credited for his instrumental role in the repeal of New York Rockefeller Drug Laws

Among Judge Schwartz’s many awards for his involvement in the Courts includes the following:

  • “Charles F. Crimi” Award
  • Rochester Police Rosewood Club’s “Distinguished Achievement” and “Distinguished Service Awards
  • Judicial Process Commission’s “Journey to Justice” Award
  • “Stanley M. Goldstein” Award

Cecilia Bianco is the social and digital communications intern for Prichard Communications and Mac’s List. She contributes to the Reclaiming Futures blog regarding topics of juvenile justice reform and substance abuse prevention.

*Image at top via The Daily Record






Montgomery County Juvenile Court Celebrates 15 Drug Court Graduates

by Michelle White

In celebration of National Drug Court Month, Montgomery County Juvenile Court held a graduation ceremony celebrating youth who have successfully overcome drug and alcohol abuse.

National Drug Court Month is coordinated on a National level by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). This year, Drug Courts throughout the nation are celebrating National Drug Court Month with the theme ‘Drug Courts: Where Accountability Meets Compassion.’ This uplifting commencement ceremony is evidence of the tremendous impact the Montgomery County Juvenile Drug Court has had on our community and will send a powerful message that Drug Courts are a proven budget solution that saves lives and dollars.

Like the other 2,700 operational Drug Courts in the United States, the Montgomery County Juvenile Drug Court is a judicially-supervised court docket that reduces correctional costs, protects community safety, and improves public welfare. In Drug Court, seriously drug-addicted individuals remain in treatment while under close supervision. Drug Court participants must meet their obligation to themselves, their families, and society. To ensure accountability, they are regularly and randomly tested for drug use, required to appear frequently in court for the judge to review their progress, rewarded for doing well and sanctioned for not living up to their obligations. Research continues to show that Drug Courts work better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone.

Fifteen young men and women were among this year’s graduates. The ceremony marked their completion of an intensive program of comprehensive drug treatment, case management, mandatory drug testing, community supervision and incentives and sanctions to encourage appropriate behavior.

Actor Vincent M. Ward II, a Trotwood-Madison High School graduate who is on television shows and movies including The Walking Dead, True Blood, and Ocean’s Eleven, was the keynote speaker. Ward told staff, parents and the graduates that “Life is about choices. Rise and grind every day. Every day.”

Two of the youth from the graduating class provided inspirational testimonies. “During the time I was in Drug Court, sobriety motivated me to do a lot of positive things. And in return build a relationship with my father one more time," one drug court graduate told us.

Our graduates all have their own unique story. They tell of varying circumstances that led them to Drug Treatment Court and varying successes since their graduation. But they all share a common gratitude toward the staff and volunteers who gave them a second chance.

Congratulations to all of the graduates!

Michelle L. White is the Project Director for Reclaiming Futures, Montgomery County, Ohio. Michelle has worked in the justice arena her entire career. She began her career with Montgomery County Juvenile Court ten years ago as a Probation Officer. Throughout her tenure with the Court, Michelle has served as a Gender Specific Probation Officer and as the Intensive Probation Supervisor. Michelle is very passionate about working with families, volunteers and the community. She has been involved with the Reclaiming Futures movement in Dayton throughout her time with the Court. She can be reached at






Plan to Celebrate National Drug Court Month in May

by Susan Richardson

Reclaiming Futures works in 37 communities across the country to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. In about one-third of those sites, Reclaiming Futures partners with drug courts, which, according to years of research, work better than jail, prison, probation or treatment alone to significantly reduce drug use and crime.

To celebrate this, and the many lives that have been saved, please join us, and plan ahead for National Drug Court Month in May.

Here are some ideas for celebrating in your community (adapted from the National Association for Drug Court Professionals):

  • Hold a commencement ceremony to recognize the accomplishments of participants.
  • Schedule a meeting with your members of congress while they are home for Constituent Work Week, May 1-3 and 28-31. Have your Drug Court judge and graduate attend the meetings to educate policymakers.
  • Organize a community clean up. Clean a park, street, highway or school. Invite all treatment, mental health, court, law enforcement and probation staff to join in.
  • Start a local donation drive.

Look for an information kit soon at

Call 503-725-8911 to learn more about bringing Reclaiming Futures to your community.

Susan Richardson is national executive director for Reclaiming Futures. Formerly, she was a senior program officer in the health care division of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina, where she led a three-year effort involving the state’s juvenile justice and treatment leaders to adopt the Reclaiming Futures model by juvenile courts in six North Carolina counties. She received her B.S. in Public Health, Health Policy and Administration, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.




SAMHSA: Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts Break Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

by Liz Wu

Across the country, juvenile treatment drug courts (JTDC) are helping teens achieve better outcomes by focusing on treatment and family engagement. JTDCs treat teens for both substance abuse problems and mental health issues, as needed. As David Morrissette, senior program manager at SAMHSA, explained to SAMHSA News, "up to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health disorders and more than 60 percent of those also have a substance use disorder."

The latest issue of SAMHSA News highlights a number of successful drug court programs, including Reclaiming Futures. From the article [emphasis mine]:

In a 2012 evaluation [ppt] examining data from 1,934 young people participating in drug courts at 17 CSAT grantee sites, evaluators found that participants saw a 26 percent increase in the number of days they abstained from alcohol and other drugs between intake and a 1-year follow-up. Participants’ scores on a scale measuring emotional problems and difficulties with self-control declined by 16 percent. The average number of crimes reported dropped by half.

According to the evaluation, a more intensive approach to juvenile treatment drug courts called Reclaiming Futures reached youth with more severe problems, provided more services, and did an even better job of increasing abstinence, reducing emotional problems, and reducing criminal behavior.

"There are six stages in the [Reclaiming Futures] model," said SAMHSA Project Officer Holly Rogers, M.A. "These include screening and assessing young people to identify alcohol or substance use problems, coordinating services across agencies, helping kids and families make an initial contact with services, getting them actively engaged in services, and transitioning them out of services and into long-term supports, such as helping relationships and community resources."

Learn more about the Reclaiming Futures model and how to bring it to your community.

Read the full article here.

This excerpt appears courtesy of SAMHSA News, Volume 21, Number 1, Winter 2013. SAMHSA News is the national newsletter of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA News may be accessed at

Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.