Drug Treatment With Young Offenders: Screening and Assessment Issues

Daniel P. Mears, The Urban Institute
Shelli Rossman, The Urban Institute

Practitioners and policymakers are increasingly interested in effective drug treatment for young offenders, as well as strategies for providing treatment at earlier stages of the juvenile justice system. Early intervention, it is hoped, can help to avoid reliance on more costly sanctions. Researchers have responded to this increased interest by trying to identify drug treatment interventions that "work." Yet, effective drug treatment, as well as research on what "works," are premised on accurate assessment of the need for drug treatment. This paper addresses two critical questions: (1) What are the most effective screening and assessment instruments or approaches for determining that a youth needs drug treatment?, and (2) What instruments or approaches are employed by the juvenile justice system to determine need for treatment? Both issues are explored by reviewing existing research on drug treatment screening and assessment and drawing on work from the Urban Institute's National Evaluation of Juvenile Drug Courts, a recent project funded by the National Institute of Justice.

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Updated 05/20/2006