Portable Drug Treatment for the Juvenile Justice System

Jean Callahan, The Vera Institute of Justice

One out of every five juveniles entering urban detention center has been using drugs nearly every day for the past month. Mostly, these young teens have been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. Although they may not be chemically dependent, using so frequently is a clear sign of a serious problem and, for many, the first step toward using harder drugs. Despite this concentration of heavy users, juvenile justice systems are rarely provide treatment. Children often move thru facilities too quickly for staff to provide meaningful drug treatment, and authorities often view post-release treatment as the responsibility of social services agencies. Involving family members, a critical component in adolescent drug treatment, is difficult when kids are located in remote and/or secure facilities. To quickly identify and treat young offenders with the most acute drug habits, New York City and New York State agencies are working with the Vera Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, implementing a unique treatment program called Adolescent Portable Therapy (APT). By providing individual therapists who travel with adolescents as they move through the system, APT works with kids inside detention facilities and continues treating them in their home communities. And APT is designed to cost no more than other intensive treatment programs for very troubled teenagers.

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Updated 05/20/2006