News from the National Executive Director, January 2017

by Evan Elkin

In this month’s Reclaiming Futures newsletter, we focus our attention on the question that has 2017 newsletter imagepreoccupied many of us in recent months: What will be the impact of the new presidential administration on juvenile justice policy? In this uncertain time, the field of juvenile justice should certainly be concerned about funding, but many of us are more concerned about protecting the significant progress we’ve made as a field to humanize and improve juvenile justice policy and practice over the last two decades.

In the twenty years that I’ve worked in juvenile justice and behavioral health, we’ve seen a revolution in the use of juvenile detention thanks to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. We’ve also seen a major shift in the way we view adolescent misbehavior; and with research advances and greater integration of knowledge from the fields of developmental psychology and brain science, we’ve managed to dig ourselves out the dark ages and stop viewing young people as super-predators. Finally, we have begun to see an increased willingness to seek honest, practical and data-driven solutions to the chronic racial and ethnic disparities that continue to plague our juvenile justice system. Owing in part to the hard work we’ve done here at Reclaiming Futures over the past 15 years, there is now and accepted blueprint that allows the field to prioritize treatment and community alternatives over punishment for youth who enter the system with substance use and mental health problems. Will the field be able to maintain this hard-won progress?… Read More »

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.… Read More »

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:

Read More »

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.Read More »

Collaboration in Action: Reclaiming Futures Teams Up with Pathways Transition Training Partnership to Host a Joint Webinar

by Bridget Murphy

Collaboration. A word we use a lot at Reclaiming Futures. Why? Because based on our fifteen years of working in jurisdictions across the country, collaboration can be an impactful catalyst for change. While the National Office puts collaboration into action regularly it was recently visibly demonstrated.

As you may know, Reclaiming Futures is part of the Regional Research InsCapturetitute (RRI) at Portland State University. We are affiliated with such efforts as the National Wraparound Initiative, The Center to Advance Racial Equity, and Pathways Transition Training Partnership (PTTP). A few months ago, Evan Elkin, Christa Myers and I began conversations with Drs. Eileen Brennan and Pauline Jivanjee of PTTP to develop a joint webinar. Both groups understand the importance of collaboration between stakeholders in juvenile justice settings to improve the health and wellness of young people with substance use and/or mental health concerns. However, our focus for the webinar did not become immediately clear. We spent time examining our commonalities to decide the best topic for diverse fields and individuals (e.g., juvenile justice; behavioral health; community members). We decided to emphasize our respective work in the area of evidence-based practices.

To begin, here is a little about PTTP. PTTP was “developed to enhance the skills of service providers working with young people with serious mental health conditions and to provide information and tools for young people and their family members, service providers, researchers, and policy makers involved in developing and implementing effective transition-focused interventions, policies, and research.” One of the ways PTTP achieves this is by offering training and technical assistance is through free online training modules that address relevant topics such as engaging with youth and families, cultural responsiveness and intergenerational relationships, resiliency and developmental considerations.… Read More »

News from the National Executive Director, October 2016

by Evan Elkin

Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan ElkinIn this month’s Reclaiming Futures newsletter, we reflect on President Obama’s proclamation
which, for the second year in a row, makes October National Youth Justice Awareness Month. President Obama’s focus on juvenile justice has been impressive, but it is important that the field does not become complacent as we contemplate what the future holds for juvenile justice reform.

These past several years have seen something of a perfect storm for those involved in improving youth justice policy and practice; we cannot assume this will continue into the next administration. At Reclaiming Futures we are cognizant of the fact that we’ve been operating in a very favorable political climate, driven by a president who advocates for reform in the strongest terms; we have had policy makers like OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee, who puts scientific evidence first, and has been a voice for humanism and equity for the field; and more than ever before, the research evidence – both from adolescent brain science and the program evaluation literature – supports the view that our juvenile justice systems must stop over relying on the detention and incarceration of adolescents, in favor of community-based alternatives that reflect what we know about adolescent development and that address the treatment needs of youth.… Read More »

October 2016 is Youth Justice Awareness/Action Month

by Bridget Murphy

Reclaiming Futures is proud to support Youth Justice Awabridget's blog postreness Month. As such, we asked Mr. Brian Evans, the State’s Campaign Director at Campaign for Youth Justice to tell us about its history and purpose. Mr. Evans told us:

Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) started back in 2008, when Tracy McClard, a mother from Missouri who lost her son to suicide in an adult jail, organized a 5K race in October to raise awareness about the harmful practice of treating children as adults in the criminal justice system. Each October since then, YJAM has seen more activities and more events highlighting what is wrong with trying kids as adults. Film screenings, panel discussion, art exhibitions, and more ambitious endeavors like Tracy’s bike ride across the state of Missouri last year, have all drawn attention to and helped build a growing consensus that we need to reform the way we approach youth justice.

As President Obama said this year in his second annual proclamation of Youth Justice Awareness Month: “When we invest in our children and redirect young people who have made misguided decisions, we can reduce our over-reliance on the juvenile and criminal justice systems and build stronger pathways to opportunity.”

Read More »

News from the National Executive Director, September 2016

by Evan Elkin

Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan ElkinAs Reclaiming Futures enters its 16th year of operation, we reflect on our unique contributions to the juvenile justice reform efforts of the past couple decades. What is most concretely evident to the field is our public health oriented approach and the creation of an accessible stepwise model, designed for juvenile justice settings, to organize the way they identify treatment need and then deliver developmentally appropriate and evidence-based treatment responses that are then sustained by community supports. In order to make our six-step approach work at the local level, we partner with jurisdictions to break down silos and build authentic collaboration across a number of systems that serve youth.

In creating and disseminating this approach, Reclaiming Futures sets a higher standard for treatment practice in youth justice settings. Our recent OJJDP-funded national evaluation shows that, in the case of juvenile treatment courts, the Reclaiming Futures approach may make the difference between a treatment court that doesn’t consistently meet the treatment needs of its participating youth and one that not only improves treatment access and treatment matching, but then produces significant cost savings.… Read More »

A Must Read – Reclaiming Futures and Organizing Justice for Drug-Using Youth

by Bridget Murphy

Researchers from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (John Jay) have been involved in evaluating Reclaiming Futures since its inception. Beginning in 2002, Jeffrey Butts, PhD and colleagues began studying the relationship between the Reclaiming Futures’ system-level change approach and the way stakeholders across all the inter-connected systems in juvenile justice settings perceive the effectiveness of their system of care and the delivery of services to youth. In his approach, Dr. Butts examined variables in key domains like administration, collaboration and quality. While no evaluation is perfect, the work Butts and colleagues did to begin to quantify system-level change variables in a meaningful way was quite original and generated useful information for Reclaiming Futures and the field.  The initial evaluation results were also helpful in guiding subsequent evaluations by The University of Arizona, Chestnut Health Systems, and Carnevale Associates, LLC.

In Reclaiming Futures and Organizing Justice for Drug-Using Youth (Butts, Tomberg, Peirce, Evans & Irvine, 2016), John Jay researchers begin by reviewing Reclaiming Futures history and previous evaluations: the strengths and shortcomings and then report findings froUntitledm a survey of Reclaiming Futures sites around the country that served as a follow up to the original community networks analysis conducted a decade ago (Butts and Roman, 2007). While there are numerous interesting qualitative and quantitative aspects to this report, I found the follow up to the community networks analysis very relevant and practical. Butts and colleagues contacted sites that participated in the 2003 and 2006 analysis to collect a third wave of data. The researchers asked Reclaiming Futures leadership to rank each site on its “relative level of engagement” with the National Office and Reclaiming Futures activities and events (p. 13).  Then, the researchers examined these site-engagement rankings relative to several survey indices. The investigators found that sites that remained strongly engaged showed significantly better perceptions of “access to services” (e.g., location; funding) as compared to those with weak or no engagement. They also found statistically significant differences in “resource management”  (e.g., sharing resources; efficient use of existing funding) with sites that were more strongly engaged reporting better resource management scores than sites with less strong or no engagement. Similarly, engaged sites reported more positive perceptions of their alcohol and other drug assessment practices as compared to those with less engagement.… Read More »

News from the National Executive Director, August 2016

by Evan Elkin

Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director Evan ElkinIn the current Reclaiming Futures newsletter we focus our attention on Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). SBIRT is a public health-oriented framework revolutionizing the way we think about behavioral health and substance use screening and prevention. Buoyed by strong evidence from the adult research literature, there has been a surge in national interest in translating the successes of the adult SBIRT model for youth populations.

The process of developing an SBIRT framework for youth is in its very early stages and the interest in the approach is currently outpacing the presence of either a body of research evidence and a set of best practices to guide the field. However, with a significant strategic investment by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (CNHF), the field is making strides. Among other elements of a multi-pronged strategy, CNHF is supporting the field to develop and pilot innovative approaches to youth SBIRT, to look at workforce training, and to explore appropriate settings for implementation. The result has been to challenge a number of youth-serving systems like schools and juvenile justice systems to view their work with youth through a public health lens.… Read More »